A Sensational Stunt, 1906

Flying the Foam and Some Fancy Diving
R: James Williamson. D: ‘Professor’ Reddish. P: Williamson Kinematograph Company. UK 1906
Locations: Palace Pier, Brighton, East Sussex, England, UK
Print: BFI National Archive

“Self-styled pier entertainer ‘Professor’ Reddish was a specialist in the ‘flying the foam’ stunt, which involved mounting a bicycle and riding it down a steep ramp and then off the end of Brighton’s West Pier into the sea.
To this, James Williamson adds additional layers of entertainment, firstly by showing the stunt from multiple angles (or rather several stunts, as the surrounding crowds differ from shot to shot) and then by showing it in reverse motion so that Reddish appears to be performing the impossible feat of riding his bicycle vertically out of the sea. Similar treatment is then given to more conventional footage of pier divers.”
Michael Brooke

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A Storm at Sea (1900)

A Storm at Sea
R: James H. White. K: Alfred C. Abadie. P: Edison Manufacturing Company. USA 1900
Locations: S.S. “Kaiserin Maria Theresia”, Atlantic Ocean

“While our photographers were crossing the Atlantic Ocean a most wonderful and sensational picture was secured, showing a storm at sea. The picture was secured by lashing the camera to the after bridge of the ‘Kaiserine Maria Theresa’, of the North German Lloyd Line, during one of its roughest voyages. The most wonderful storm picture ever photographed. Taken at great risk.”
Edison Films (1901)

“While the ‘risk’ seems dubious, the rigging of the camera may have been somewhat innovative, as very few pictures had been shot in heavy seas at this time. It may also explain the rope we see passing in front of the lens, which may have been part of the arrangement to keep the camera from sliding all over the deck.”
Century Film Project

About James H. White:
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

1895: Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle
R: William K.L. Dickson. D: Joseph Jefferson. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1895/96
Print: Library of Congress (Paper print collection)

Compilation of 8 films: Awakening of Rip (1896), Exit of Rip and the Dwarf (1896), Rip Leaving Sleepy Hollow (1896), Rip Meeting the Dwarf (1896), Rip’s Toast to Hudson (1896), Rip’s Toast (1896), Rip Passing Over the Mountain (1896) and Rip’s Twenty Years’ Sleep (1896).

“American Mutoscope Company production; distributed by American Mutoscope Company. / Cinematography by [?] G.W. Bitzer? / Premiered 12 October 1896 at Hammerstein’s Olympia Music Hall Theatre in New York, New York. / Mutoscope 68mm spherical 1.36:1 format. / The production was shot at approximately 36 frames per second. The film was made for Biograph projection and was shown for the first Biograph system program. The Joseph Jefferson Mutoscope films were assembled into a continuous narrative and rereleased in the USA as Rip Van Winkle (1903) by American Mutoscope & Biograph Company in 1903.”
Silent Era

“‘Rip Van Winkle’ is a short story by Washington Irving. It was first published in 1820 in the collection ‘The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.’, which also contained ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. ‘Rip Van Winkle’ is based on the German folk tale of Peter Krauss, a goatherd who comes across some little men playing a game, drinks some of their wine and falls asleep for twenty years. There are many similar folk tales found all over the world. (…)
The story begins before the American Revolutionary War and takes place in a village, where most of the inhabitants are of Dutch descent, near the Catskill Mountains. Rip Van Winkle, a loyal subject of Britain’s King George III, is a popular young man. He is especially well liked by the children, who he tells stories to and makes toys for. However, Rip is lazy and does not like doing anything that might be considered real work. His house and farm are falling into a state of disrepair and for that reason his wife is often angry with him.”
Literature Wikia

Walter R. Booth: Comedy or Horror?

Undressing extraordinary
R: Walter R. Booth. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works (Robert W. Paul). UK 1901

“The Edison company, which distributed the film in the US, regarded it as a comedy, its catalogue claiming that the audience would end up ‘simply convulsed in laughter’, though it has also been cited as a pioneering horror film, and not simply because of the scene with the skeleton (undressing taken to its logical extreme?). After all, the inability to complete an apparently simple task for reasons beyond one’s control is one of the basic ingredients of a nightmare.
Although his initial gait makes it clear that a primary cause of the traveller’s discomfiture is a combination of tiredness and alcohol, the fact that we see events from his perspective but not through his eyes adds a disturbing level of realism to the hallucinations, created via well-timed jump-cuts that convey the impression of a single three-minute take.
As with many of Booth’s other shorts, similar concepts can be found in films made decades later, examples including Sherlock Jr (US, d. Buster Keaton, 1924), L’Age d’Or (France, d. Luis Buñuel, 1930), Magical Maestro (US, d. Tex Avery, 1952), The Flat (Byt, Czechoslovakia, d. Jan Svankmajer, 1968) and a great many sketches from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-74).”
Michael Brooke

The Magic Sword
R: Walter R. Booth. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works (Robert W. Paul). UK 1901

“Compared with the films that Booth and Paul made only two years earlier, The Magic Sword is impressively elaborate, with single shots containing multiple trick effects achieved through complex double exposures and superimpositions. One of the most striking effects is a shot of the witch taking off on her broomstick. John Barnes, in volume 5 of ‘The Beginnings of the Cinema in England’, quotes Frederick A.Talbot’s description of how producer Paul ‘(…)invented a novel movement in the camera, which is now in general use in trick cinematography. The lens was arranged to be raised or lowered in relation to the area of film in the gate, but still independently of the film itself. This was done with a small gearing device whereby, when the gear handle was turned, the lens was moved upwards or downwards. The witch astride her broom stood upon the floor of the stage, which was covered with black cloth, against a background of similar material. By turning the gear handle of the lens attachment the latter was raised, until the witch riding on her broom was lifted to the upper corner of the film and there photographed. Although she simulated the action of riding through space in the traditional manner, in reality she merely moved across the black-covered floor.’

The final result, together with similar sequences involving a giant ogre grabbing the damsel from the castle ramparts and the witch being turned into a magic carpet that unrolls by itself before taking off with our heroes on board, was so startling that it moved the legendary stage illusionist J.N.Maskelyne (of Maskelyne and Devant fame) to describe The Magic Sword as the finest trick film made up to then.”
Michael Brooke

>>>   Walter Booth’s Proto-SF Fables  on this website

A Documentary from Brazil

Imagens gravadas na ocasião do falecimento do Barão do Rio Branco
R: Unknown. P: Ministério das Relações Exteriores. Br 1912
Print: Fundação Cinemateca Brasileira, São Paulo

“José Maria da Silva Paranhos, Jr., Baron of Rio Branco (in Portuguese:Barão do Rio Branco) (April 20, 1845 – February 10, 1912) was a Brazilian diplomat, geographer, historian, monarchist, politician and professor, considered to be the ‘father of Brazilian diplomacy’.  He was the son of famous statesman José Maria da Silva Paranhos, Sr. The Baron of Rio Branco was a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, occupying its 34th chair from 1898 until his death in 1912. As a representative of Brazil, through his outstanding diplomacy, he managed to peacefully resolve Brazil’s border disputes with its South American neighbours.”

When the West Was Young

When the West Was Young
R: William J. Bauman. D: George Holt, George Stanley, Maxine Elliott Hicks. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYE collection (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles

De Landverhuizers (Original title unknown)
R: Frank E. Montgomery (?). D: Mona Darkfeather. P: Unknown. USA 1913
Dutch titles

“Princess Mona Darkfeather was born Josephine M. Workman in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles on 13 January 1882. Her grandparents were William Workman (1799-1876), a native of England, and Nicolasa Urioste (1802-1892), who hailed from the Taos pueblo of New Mexico. Consequently, though Darkfeather stated in a 1914 film magazine interview that she was descended ‘from an aristocratic Spanish family’, she likely had at least some Indian blood through her grandmother. (…)
Quickly, she became a major star in the fledgling film industry in Hollywood with her peak period of activity coming between 1913 and 1915. Working with film director Frank E. Montgomery (a.k.a., Akley), Princess Mona made dozens of short films as a stereotypical Indian for such companies as Bison, Nestor, Kalem and Centaur and one full-length film for Universal in 1917 before she retired.”
Paul R. Spitzzeri

Kri Kri, a Surreal Phenomenon

Kri Kri fuma l’oppio
R: Raymond Dandy. D: Raymond Dandy. P: Società Italiana Cines. It 1913
Dutch titles

Raymond Dandy was born on October 14, 1887 in Gorée, Senegal as Raymond François Émile Marie Pierre Frau. He was an actor and director, known for Kri-Kri fuma l’oppio (1913), Kri-Kri senza testa (1913) and Kri-Kri è miope (1913). He died on February 9, 1953 in Paris, France.

“Born in Senegal in 1887, Frau began his career as a circus clown and acrobat in France where he performed in vaudeville circuits and café-chantants. In 1912 he started as comic actor at the Cines studios, establishing the internationally popular character of Kri Kri (…).
The Kri Kri films often contain surreal scenes. In a period when the artistic avant-garde was only slightly involved in cinema and Italian cinema was mainly a bourgeois enterprise, one is still astonished by the special effects need to create an unusual world, in which people decapitate themselves, in which gravity no longer counts and doubles walk trough mirrors and pester their ‘originals’. Just as the surrealists were inspired by the French farces, Italian comedies may have triggered the imagination of artists around the world.”
Ivo Blom: All the Same or Strategies of Difference. Early ltalian Comedy in Intemational Perspective

La tragedia di Kri Kri
R: Raymond Dandy. D: Raymond Dandy, Giuseppe Gambardella, Lea Giunchi. P: Società Italiana Cines. It 1913