Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Allotment Holder’s Enemies (1918)

The Allotment Holder’s Enemies (1918) is a short film made to advertise The Smallholder, a magazine for allotment owners, providing exciting instruction on how to rid your garden of pests. It was made by Charles Urban, some of whose films I’ve looked at here before.

Alongside slightly strident title cards like the one above, The Allotment Holder’s Enemies contains five minutes of surprisingly lovely and vivid footage of various kinds of fairly benign British garden wildlife, all of which are probably far less benign if they’re about to eat the last cabbage in the country. But it’s still quite amusing to see such ferocious disgust at, well, sparrows.

Poor sparrows.

(Incidentally, that reminds me of this beautiful old bestiary description of bees, which is, and shall always be, one of my very favourite things.)

Anyway, these most destructive birds are then presented to the viewer with some footage (see image immediately below) that doesn’t exactly do much to illustrate the dire biblical plague that obviously at the time they represented.

Just terrifying.

So to calm you down, here are some lovely pictures of snails, caterpillars, grubs.

Although even caterpillars can be quite ferocious.

“Especially to ladies.”

__________

Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player

2. And gleaned, as usual, most of my information from there.

3. A sequel/companion to this, The Allotment Holder’s Friends, was made at the same time.

4. But unfortunately, except for mention of its title in various online catalogues, can find no evidence of its existence.

__________

Film Information

Title: The Allotment Holder’s Enemies
Director: Charles Urban
Year: 1918
Duration: 5 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Acrobatic Fly (1910) / Birth Of A Flower (1910)

The Acrobatic Fly and Birth Of A Flower are two films released in 1910 by the brilliant nature film and stop-motion pioneer F. Percy Smith (whose incredible To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly I watched and reviewed previously).

The Acrobatic Fly was a part of an ongoing series of similarly themed short films, in which F. Percy Smith decided to use stop motion to make it look like insects were engaged in a series of pointless acrobatic displays.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I found this fairly disconcerting (presumably because of the use of real flies nailed to a pole).

I much preferred Birth Of A Flower. This film is a series of time lapse sequences, showing flowers opening up their petals into full bloom, and it’s really quite beautiful. Of course, watching it now, these sequences aren’t anything we haven’t seen before (although they’re still beautiful staged), but I expect a hundred and ten years ago footage like this would have been a pretty wonderful novelty.

Although maybe not as much of a commercial success as flies carrying dumbbells.
__________

Notes

1. I watched these both on youtube – The Acrobatic Fly here, and Birth Of A Flower here

2. That version of Birth Of A Flower is only an extract, but it’s been soundtracked by some Erik Satie music, so I preferred that version to the full version

3. Which can be viewed here

4. But which unfortunately has a fairly ugly watermark ruining it, unfortunately.

5. If you’d like to know more about F. Percy Smith, this Atlas Obscura article is pretty wonderful

6. And well worth your time.

7. This BFI article about Birth of A Flower is also interesting (but a lot shorter).
__________

Film Information

Title: The Acrobatic Fly
Director: F. Percy Smith
Year: 1910
Duration: 3 minutes
Watch: youtube

Title: Birth Of A Flower
Director: F. Percy Smith
Year: 1910
Duration: 7 minutes
Watch: youtube (extract only); youtube (full version)

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly (1909)

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly is a very short educational film (it’s only a minute long), made using stop-motion animation to explain how spiders travel across unexpectedly large distances. It was directed by F. Percy Smith, a naturalist and photographer who helped pioneer the use of many now-familiar film-making techniques, such as time-lapse sequences.

I love spiders and I love stop-motion creatures and I utterly love this. What a wonderful thing.

And a hundred and ten years old.

__________

Notes

1. I watched this, yes, via the BFI Player – To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
2. I think this may be my favourite thing
3. I just wish I’d seen it earlier so I could have incorporated this knowledge into Spiders Are Wonderful (multiple winner of the factual book of the year award in 2011).

__________

Film Information

Title: To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
Director: F. Percy Smith
Year: 1909
Runtime: 1 minute