People and Machines

An Interesting Story
R: James Williamson. P: Williamson Kinematograph Company. UK 1905

“The mechanization of the body is also commented on in the seemingly very self-aware film An Interesting Story. At the end, a man is run over by a steam roller, flattened, and brought back to 3D life by bicycle pumps. The body responds to mechanical tools as if it were inorganic or non-living material itself. What surprised me is how it seemed that people could actually be afraid of human-machine interchangeability. The anecdote in Doane’s “Technology’s Body” about the woman who was reluctant to have her picture taken for fear it would be painful is very much in line with the pattern of early cinema. The relationship between real life and cinema, and the relationship between people and machines, seem to be brought together in this time period.”
Aron Katz
Early Cinema to 1915


His First Ride
R: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. P: Selig Polyscope Company. USA 1907

“Although His First Ride supposedly depicts the efforts of an inexperienced cyclist to avert disaster, it’s very obvious that we’re watching a stunt performer who knows precisely what he’s doing. He expertly manipulates his velocipede along a wooden sidewalk, zipping within a hair’s breadth of outraged ladies in floor-length skirts. As the surviving footage ends — at a point which doesn’t seem to be the end of the movie — he seems to be on the brink of doing either a handstand or a handspring over his handlebars. (…)
His First Ride is clearly meant as a comedy, but the daredevil bicycle antics here are more thrilling than funny. A few years later, Al St John and Joe Jackson would (separately) perform their comedy bicycle routines in western vaudeville. St John was both a talented comedian AND a brilliant stunt cyclist who could manoeuvre his bicycle expertly while SEEMING to be incompetent.”
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre

Fat Man on a Bicycle
R: Fred Evans. D: Fred Evans. UK 1914
Print: BFI

“Pimple, a lovably childlike oaf in clownish make-up, was the creation of Fred Evans, who in the mid-1910s filmed some 200 skits, parodies and spoofs in an endearingly shambolic style. Evans wrote and directed as well as starred, mostly in partnership with his brother Joe. The two came from solid showbiz stock – their uncle Will Evans was an acrobatic music hall performer, while great-uncle Fred was a pantomime star.”
BFI Player

>>> Bicycle Stories on this website

>>> Pimple Parodies on this website