A Pre-Hitchcock Eagle’s Attack

Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest
R und K: J. Searle Dawley, Edwin S. Porter. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1908
Starring: David W. Griffith!

“Even film can be seen in these terms: as a visual illusion which exploits the limits of perception, but which also offers the cinematic body as recompense for the fragmen- ted body of technology. I contend that this inquiry into the limits of perception and the ambivalent re- cuperation of the body takes on a highly specific and intensified form in a genre that confronts the old conceptions of the body with the new ones that invalidate them. (…) Compare, for example, Rescued From an Eagle’s Nest (1908, Edison) with A Twentieth Century Tramp (1902, Edison). These films stand in contrast to each other as representations of archaic life in the mountains and the woods versus modem life in the city. Both are replete with powerful panoramic shots. They exploit the possibility of the medium through the deployment of trick shots. In particular, they contain panoramic shots from an emphatically ‘modem’ point of view, flaimting the technological possibilities. They both contain shots from the sky. These shots are narratively motivated. Thus, in the former film, which foregrounds archaic life, these shots are enabled by an enormous eagle who captures a little girl. In the latter film, which celebrated urban life rather than life in the backwoods, a ‘tramp’ is seen riding a sort of futuristic flying bicycle through the sky. The two films foreground their espousing of modem technology, but whereas the former nostalgically harks back to the past, in a privileged rejuvenated visual form, the latter enthusiastically and hyperbolically forecasts the future. They share a framing of the body in the modem technology that makes possible the unreal representations ‘from the sky.’ In spite of their differences, this form of visual presentation is itself, in both cases, both hyperbolically optimistic and ambivalent in that it dwarfs the subject framed by machinery.”
Nanna Verhoeff: The West in Early Cinema. After the Beginning. Amsterdam University Press 2006

The Twentieth Century Tramp; or, Happy Hooligan and His Airship
R: Edwin S. Porter. D: J. Stuart Blackton. P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1902

“A comic picture that defies description. It depicts the Twentieth Century up-to-date tramp flying over the chimney tops of New York City in the latest improved flying machine. Weary Willie has the indispensible tin can hanging from his waist and he waves his hands to his friends as he flies along. He passes over the top of the Equitable Life building and other New York sky scrapers. He flies over the East River and clears the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, and appears to be making his way toward Staten Island. When he is about in the centre of the river, his flying machine explodes, and like the unfortunate McGinty, down goes Weary William. This picture is most mystifying and humorous.”
Edison Catalog