The Russo-Japanese War

Événements Russo-Japonais (Russo-Japanese War Programme)
P: Pathé. Fr 1904

A compilation of films mostly relating to the Russo-Japanese War, using films by various companies: Urban, Warwick, Pathé, Gaumont and Alfred West. It was issued as a series under the title Événements Russo-Japonais by Pathé in 1904.
Bryony Dixon (BFI)

“This film has an unusual opening for documenting war: a group of soldiers release a balloon* with two men in its basket. With their telescope, the men watch the battles far below. This framing device, partly filmed on a studio set, serves to present gruesome battles as entertaining spectacle. In some battles, the camera seems to accompany the Japanese troops, but as the distant view from the balloon in the opening sequence suggests, the film maintains an onlooker’s perspective.”
Kosuke Fujiki (King’s College London)

*The balloon scenes showing two men in a basket with a telescope are directly taken from the 1904 Gaston Velle film Un drame dans les airs.

Historical background: Russo-Japanese War (Wikipedia)

>>> WAR


Fox Hunt: A British Pleasure

Fox Hunting
R: William Barker. P:  Warwick Trading Company. UK 1906

“It’s produced and directed by Will Barker, another of the important but forgotten people in the industry. In this period, he was the managing director of Warwick Trading, a major force in British production. His innovations including shifting movies from a model in which exhibitors bought prints of films, to one in which they rented them. This increased the profits of distributors, and meant that worn-out prints could be retired instead of exhibited past sense. Barker moved into feature production in 1912, and continued to prosper for the next ten years. He died in 1951 at the age of 83.”

“The Warwick Trading Company had its origins in the London office of Maguire and Baucus, a firm run by two American businessmen who, from 1894, acted as agents marketing films and projectors produced by Thomas Edison. In 1897, they also acquired the rights to distribute films produced by the Lumière brothers. Later that year, Charles Urban was appointed managing director. Urban was dissatisfied with the current location of the offices, in Broad Street, and proposed a move to a building in Warwick Court, which was nearer to like-minded businesses such as that of Robert W. Paul. Urban also suggested a simultaneous name change, as he felt the current name was difficult to do business with. The company was thus rebranded as the Warwick Trading Company, after the address of its new offices in Warwick Court. The new company was officially registered in May 1898. Urban oversaw significant growth in the company’s operations, and it became a highly regarded film producer and distributor, with a particular focus on actuality films, travel and reportage. (…) Between 1906 and 1909 the Warwick Trading Company was headed by Will Barker, and between 1913 and 1915 by the naturalist photographer Cherry Kearton, after which the company went into receivership.”

Fox Hunt
Dir. and P unknown. UK 1914
Print BFI

“Hounds and followers of the Beaufort Hunt gather before the Portcullis Hotel and onlookers on Horse Street, Chipping Sodbury. Then they’re off down the High Street and into some fields where the hounds draw a fox from its covert. With the quarry in the open, pursuit begins in earnest: a steeplechase over walls and hedges. The fox hides in a hole but is flushed out by a terrier and the chase continues!”

Argentina: La creación del himno

La creación del himno
R: Mario Gallo. B: Mario Gallo. D: Federico López, Eliseo Gutiérrez. P: Mario Gallo. Argentina 1909
Print: Argentina Film Foundation
Film starts at sec. 33

“La creación del himno, which is sometimes referred to as The National Anthem , is a silent black and white film from Argentina directed by Mario Gallo about his own script that premiered in 1909 and starred Federico López and the Uruguayan actor Eliseo Gutiérrez . The film refers to the creation of the Argentine National Anthem, the lyrics of which were written by Vicente López y Planes in 1812, while the music was composed by Blas Parera in 1813. Director Mario Gallo, an Italian who had arrived in Argentina in 1905, began filming in 1909 and made the first film with an Argentine plot, which according to some authors was El fusilamiento de Dorrego (1908/1910) and, according to others, La Revolución de Mayo (1909). Some scholars see in Gallo’s film work the influence of the Film d’Art trend, which since 1908 tried in France the first approach to cinema as art, to move it away from the mere spectacle of a fair, and which had its first expression in L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise. (…)  La creación del himno, like almost all the cinema of the time, has a very theatrical staging, with short vignettes that illustrate the texts of the intertitles.

One 16mm copy of La creación del himno was stored for decades in Argentina Film Foundation and in the XXI century Cinecolor laboratory Argentina, who had already done the same job with La Revolución de Mayo, was in charge of the restoration and obtained, after a process that required the work of 20 people for three months, new copies in 35 mm. First, the existing copy was manually repaired, then the material obtained was scanned by filing it on the computer and finally, once on the computers, a digital restoration was performed to stabilize the film, equalize the contrast, clean the damaged frames and reconstruct the intertitles. New 35mm copies were made from the restored material.”

La Revolución de Mayo
R: Mario Gallo. Argentina 1909

>>> La Revolución de Mayo de Mario Gallo (span.)

>>> Political background: The Argentine War of Independence

>>> National film history: Cinema of Argentina

R.W. Paul and Birt Acres

Robert William Paul: Early Films UK 1895-1896

Rough Sea at Dover (1895)
Footpads (The Arrest of a Bookmaker) (1896)
The Derby (1895/96)
Hyde Park Bicycling Scene (1896)
Scene on the River Thames (1896)
Royal Train (1896)
Comic Costume Race (1896)
The Twins’ Tea Party (1896)
Blackfriars Bridge (1896)
Westminster Bridge (1896)

Birt Acres
“Birt Acres was born to English parents in Richmond, Virginia, USA on 23 July 1854, and took up the profession of photographer in London. He became the manager of a dry plate works in Barnet, and experimented for himself with chronophotographic time-lapse studies of clouds. In December 1894, he was approached by the engineer and instrument-maker Robert Paul, who had begun to produce replicas of Edison Kinetoscopes and needed someone with photographic expertise to collaborate on the production of a camera. Together they developed a ciné camera and by February 1895 made their first film experiment, showing their mutual friend Henry Short walking outside Clovelly Cottage, Acres’ home in Barnet, wearing cricket whites. This untitled test film, never exhibited commercially, was the first true British film production. Acres operated the camera for this and all the succeeding Acres-Paul productions up to June 1895, made for exhibition in Paul’s peep show Kinetoscopes. They included Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, Rough Sea at Dover, The Arrest of a Pickpocket, The Carpenter’s Shop, Boxing Kangaroo, and the film of the 1895 Derby (the last film the pair made together).
Quite incompatible as personalities, Acres and Paul split acrimoniously that July, and continued to attack each other through the photographic press as each made their separate way toward projected film and the emergence of a British cinema business. Acres travelled to Germany in June 1895, sponsored by the German chocolate company Stollwerck, and filmed several scenes, including the Opening of the Kiel Canal. On his return, he turned his attention towards film projection, evidently achieving success by the end of the year, for he gave the first public performance of projected film in Britain at Lyonsdown Photographic Club on 10 January 1896. (…) In Acres and Paul, there were the two sides of the coin offered by the invention of cinema: high-minded science versus hard-nosed commerce. While Acres hid behind science as an excuse for his business failures, Paul was able to reconcile the two disciplines and establish a leading position in moving pictures in Britain. Acres could boast some important ‘firsts’ in his film career, but he never built upon the head start that he gave himself as one of Britain’s film pioneers.”
Luke McKernan
BFI Screenonline

Opening of the Kiel Canal
R: Birt Acres. P: Birt Acres/Robert W. Paul. UK 1895

“Born in Richmond, Virginia to English parents, Birt Acres was working in London as a photographer in November 1889. During 1892 he joined the large photographic materials company of Elliott and Son and became manager of their ‘Dry Plate’ works at Barnet, in North London. Acres had become interested at this time in photographing clouds, and in order to be able to reconstitute his time-lapse studies, devised a rapid lantern slide changer which he patented in December 1893. This would appear to represent the extent of his chronophotographic work before the arrival in England of Edison‘s Kinetoscope in October 1894. By December 1894, an electrical instrument maker, Robert Paul began to pirate these machines, and urgently needed an independent supply of films for them. Acres’s assistant at Elliott’s, Henry Short, was Paul’s friend, and suggested Acres to Paul as someone who had an existing interest in the area, and the necessary photographic knowledge required to design a workable camera, and take and develop the films for it. (…) Unlike Paul, who was careful to retain his existing business, Acres committed himself wholly to the new enterprise, and resigned from Elliott’s in April 1895. This gave him the freedom to travel and he entered negotiations with the Stollwerck company, who in June supported a trip to Germany, where he took several films of the opening of the Kiel Canal. While he was away, Paul began to advertise himself as the ‘Sole European Manufacturer’ of the films, and on Acres’s return to England in mid July, the association between the two men ended in acrimony and mutual recriminations.”
Richard Brown
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

“The Kiel Canal (German: Nord-Ostsee-Kanal, literally “North-[to]-East [Baltic] Sea canal”, formerly known as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal) is a 98-kilometre-long (61 mi) freshwater canal in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The canal was finished in 1895, but later widened, and links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau. An average of 250 nautical miles (460 km) is saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula. This not only saves time but also avoids storm-prone seas and having to pass through the Danish straits. The Kiel Canal is the world’s most frequented artificial waterway with an annual average of 32,000 ships (90 daily), transporting approximately 100 million tonnes of goods.”

The Arrest of a Pickpocket
R: Birt Acres. P: Birt Acres. UK 1895

>>> The Date was 21 June 1898


An Early British Crime Film

A Railway Tragedy
R and actors unknown. P: Gaumont British Picture Corporation. UK 1904

“Very little information has been preserved about this film. The name of the director and actors is no longer known. We only know that the film has been produced in 1904 in the United Kingdom by the Gaumont British Picture Corporation and that it has been distributed in the United States by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company who has registered it for copyright on 10 October 1904. This is the first British crime film and despite its short duration it remains quite impressive because of its naturalist feeling and well built story. (…)
The  film gives a realistic impression because it is mostly filmed on location in a street and in two railway stations, with a number of bystanders walking by. It keeps a good suspense throughout with a number of unexpected developments until the end: the man stealing the woman’s purse and then throwing her out of the train, the woman being found alive on the tracks and saved just before she is ran over by a train, the woman waiting for the man at the next station, and the man finally being arrested after a last try by him to bribe the men who had caught him. Continuity editing builds up a story across various locations and an ellipse is used between the assault and the arrest to concentrate the action on the key moments.
The only shot not filmed on location, representing the train compartment where the assault takes place, is a bit weaker than the rest of the film as the constructed set is not very realistic and no moving landscape is seen through the window. A more realistic effect had been achieved with double exposure in the 1903 film The great train robbery. Most location shots involve camera movements to follow the action. In line with many British films of the time the film also carries a social message in warning of possible dangers (see e.g. Mary Jane’s Mishap): here women are advised to be extra careful when travelling alone. American comments on the film at the time of release stressed how European trains with their compartments were less safe than the open American coaches.”
A Cinema History


Full of Laughs, very Entertaining

Cutey and the Chorus Girls
R: James Young. B: Beta Breuil (story) D: Hughie Mack, Harry Lambart, Lillian Burns, Wally Van, Lillian Walker, Leah Baird, Flora Finch. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYE (Desmet collection)
Dutch titles

“A very funny picture, full of laughs, very entertaining; it pleased the audience markedly. It was written by Mrs. Breuil in a playful mood and successfully produced by James Young. Of today’s comedies, it is perhaps the best and every one of today’s releases is a good offering to the money-paying public. Wallie Van, as Cutey, lives up to his role and is well assisted by Flora Finch, the most tender-hearted one of the chorus; by Hughie Mack, a good natured comedian whose chortling smile is catching, and Harry Lambert, another of his companions. Leah Baird and Lillian Walker also add much. The Vitagraph tall man is in it. The photography is very good.”
The Moving Picture World, April 26, 1913

>>> more James Young films on this site: A Vitagraph Romance,  Jerry’s Mother-In-Law,  The Picture Idol

Charles Lucien Lépine

Odyssée d’un paysan à Paris (aka Odyssée d’un paysan à la ville)
R: Charles-Lucien Lépine. K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Bretteau. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1905

Le matelas de la mariée
R: Charles-Lucien Lépine. K: Segundo de Chomón. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906

“Charles Lucien Lépine (1859 – 1941) est originaire de Bordeaux. Il début au cinéma avec son concitoyen Pierre Caussade (1860 – 1933), avant que ce dernier ne soit embauché en mai 1898 par Pathé, dont il deviendra le premier opérateur attitré.
En octobre 1899, Lépine dépose le brevet pour un ‘appareil cinématographique de salon’. Cet appareil, inspiré du Kinetoscope Edison, est commercialisé par Pathé en 1900, mais ne figure déjà plus au catalogue l’année suivante. Lépine est également l’auteur d’un brevet pour un ‘stéréoscope de poche pour cartes postales’, déposé le 19 janvier 1903.
Lépine quitte alors Bordeaux pour venir travailler chez Pathé. En 1904, il est opérateur, mais également directeur administratif des deux théâtres de prise de vues, de Vincennes et de Montreuil. Il devient ensuite metteur en scène et réalise une quinzaine de films entre 1905 et 1906. Cette même année il est débauché par la société italienne Carlo Rossi et Cie pour venir tourner à Turin. Il devient directeur artistique des studios et réalise, entre autre, des copies des films qu’il avait tourné en France. Ce plagiat pure et simple déchaîne la colère de Charles Pathé, qui l’accuse de trahir les secrets de fabrication et le fait condamner à 10 mois de prison et 3.000 francs d’amende.
Après un bref passage en Hollande, Lépine retourne en Italie et s’installe 91, Corso Casale à Turin. Il fabrique et commercialise des appareils de projection pour lesquels il dépose de nouveaux brevets. Il est notamment l’auteur, le 9 mai 1919, d’un brevet pour un appareil d’observation directe et de projection de vues fixes sur pellicule. En France, le brevet sera déposé par Pathé qui, après quelques modifications et deux nouveaux brevets, commercialisera l’appareil avec succès sous le nom de ‘Pathéorama’ en 1923.”

The ‘Pathéorama’ (1922) is a professional film strip viewer for 35 mm film. The filmstrip is positioned directly into the compartment of the Pathéorama and advanced manually by turning a rubber wheel. The images are transported past a frosted celluloid screen and viewed through a magnifying lens. (Science museums group collection)

>>> Alice Guy’s film Le matelas épileptique

>>> Lépine’s film Un jour de paye


A Forgotten Pioneer

Mât de beaupré
K: Ambroise-François Parnaland. P: Parnaland Frères. Fr 1898

Mât de beaupré = bowsprit mast

Ambroise-François Parnaland – a French cameraman and inventor
“Born at Tournus, Saone-et-Loire in 1854, Ambroise-François Parnaland arrived in Paris in 1890 as a chartered accountant. Like his brother Louis, he was fascinated by things mechanical and they both filed several patents for various mechanisms. On 24 April 1895, Ambroise-François decided to found the firm Parnaland Frères to exploit his patent inventions. (…) The Parnaland camera, the Cinepar, was marketed in 1896. The following year, Parnaland made his first films, constructed and sold his cameras, and opened a shop at 5 rue Saint-Denis. In 1898, he filmed the surgical operations of Dr Eugène-Louis Doyen, with the cameraman Clément-Maurice. But Parnaland marketed the films, without Doyen’s permission, and Doyen took him to court. Meanwhile the Parnaland camera was used by Clément-Maurice to make the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre sound films. (…) Charles Jourjon, a lawyer, decided to provide financial backing. On 22 April 1907, the limited company ‘films l’Eclair, anciens établissements Parnaland’, was created by Jourjon and Parnaland, and a catalogue listing all the Parnaland films made between 1897 and 1907 was published. But the beginnings of the Eclair company were difficult and costly (a chateau at Epinay was bought to serve as studio and office). Parnaland, a somewhat naive partner, was soon removed from management. (…) He died on 23 May 1913 while the Eclair company, the third French firm after Pathé and Gaumont, triumphed on the screens with the adventures of Zigomar.”
Laurent Mannoni
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

Celebrations at Aberdeen University

Aberdeen University Quarter Centenary Celebrations
R: Robert W. Paul. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1906

A record of the opening of the new buildings of Marischal College, Aberdeen by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on September 27th 1906. (BFI)

“A veritable epic in comparison with everything else in R.W. Paul‘s catalogue (certainly everything that survives), this official record of Aberdeen University’s quarter-centenary celebrations, as attended by King Edward VII  and Queen Alexandra, appears to have been a collaboration between Paul’s Animatograph Works and Messrs Walker and Company, based in Bridge Street, Aberdeen. Four cameras were used to record the events (which took place on 27 September 1906), and a contemporary account suggests that the film was returned to London overnight by train, processed on the morning of the 28th, and returned to Aberdeen for screening on the 29th, to a gathering that apparently included members of the Royal Family. (…)

Thought to run some fifty minutes in the full version, the surviving copy exceeds half an hour, almost all of it devoted to recording the various processions and celebrations from a discreet distance, with no attempt made at contextualising the material either by associative editing or explanatory intertitles (though a very early shot features a floral display proclaiming what is effectively the film’s title). But to an audience in 1906, this material would have been unusually fascinating in itself, particularly for its detailed footage of the monarch. Though far from camera-shy (unlike his reclusive mother Queen Victoria, he was renowned for his sociability), there is relatively little moving-image material of him. Regular newsreels, bringing equally regular coverage of matters royal, were still a few years away.”
Michael Brooke
BFI Screenonline



The Date was 21 June 1898

Launch of HMS Albion at Blackwall
K: E.P. Prestwich. P: Prestwich Manufacturing Company. UK 1898

“The battleship ‘HMS Albion’ was launched on 21 June 1898 on the River Thames at Blackwall. The event attracted an estimated 30,000 people. The Duchess of York christened the ship, but when Albion entered the water her bulk, combined with the narrowness of the river, caused a wave that swept away a jetty holding spectators, and an estimated 39 people were drowned.  E.P. Prestwich captured this outstanding view of the launch from a distance; the whole battleship can be seen gliding into the remarkably narrow stretch of water in a seemingly serene and gentle scene. Prestwich’s contemporary R.W. Paul filmed the event from a motorboat; his Launch of HMS Albion (1898) contains only a glimpse of the battleship itself, with a shot of rescuers in boats at the scene which caused considerable controversy when it was shown. A third filmmaker, Birt Acres, had two cameras covering the event, but claimed in the London daily newspapers, in a public dig at his rival Paul, that he couldn’t continue to film, as he was too busy helping with the rescue effort; his footage doesn’t survive.”
Shona Barrett
BFI Screenonline

The Launch of HMS Albion
K: Robert W. Paul. P: Robert W. Paul. UK 1898

“This early film captures the launch of the ‘H.M.S. Albion’, which was marred by the collapse of a gangway which resulted in many spectators drowning. Film pioneer Robert Paul was filming the launch at water level – and he continued filming after the collapse of a gangway, while his launch picked up many survivors. His decision to continue filming, and then to exhibit the film, aroused much controversy. (…) The Prestwich film of the launch, Launch of H.M.S. Albion at Blackwall, (…) is taken from the opposite side of the river and shows the ship going down the slipway and turning. It also does not show the gangway collapse.”
BFI Player

“It should have been an occasion of pride and wonder. ‘HMS Albion’ was the largest warship ever launched on the Thames. Unfortunately, its royal christening was followed by one of the worst disasters ever to happen on the Thames. The date was 21 June 1898. Thousands of Londoners had gathered at Blackwall, to the north-east of the Isle of Dogs, to watch the launch of a new battleship from the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. (…) The mass of spectators had crammed into every available space to watch the launch. An eyewitness later recounted that some 200 people had crowded onto a flimsy bridge structure, which was clearly marked ‘dangerous’. As the ship hit the water, it sent a colossal backwash crashing over this structure. Over 100 people were swept into the ‘filthy, greasy’ water. Small boats raced to the scene and pulled many out of the Thames. Even so, at least 35 people lost their lives in the incident, most of them women and children. (…) ‘HMS Albion’ went on to see distinguished service during the first world war, before being scrapped in 1919. The tragedy of her launch still ranks as the third worst incident on the Thames, after the ‘Princess Alice’ disaster of 1878 and the sinking of the ‘Marchioness’ in 1989.”

The Albion Battleship Calamity
Find here a poem and more about the “HMS Albion” disaster.


>>> Fiction and Newsreel: on the “Titanic” complex