#2 The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Behold! One of the first action and western films! Done by Edwin S. Porter. This film was a first for a lot of things. This was the first film to be shot on location instead of on set, the first to have a real narrative, and the first to use a number of new film editing techniques. We see some scenes that has one thing going on in one and something different happening in another. Lots of them intercut each other and as well as jump cut each other. Since it’s an action film, we were able to see wide pan shots to see the full action. This was also the first film to see a man thrown off of a moving train.

One thing to notice about the violence in this film is that all you see are the men who get shot fall to the ground from a smoky gunshot. No blood, no gore. Films back than were allowed to be violent but you were never allowed to see the details of the death. The Great Train Robbery was actually based on a real-life robbery. Write in the comments which one it is. 

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I like how this film pretty much has a general plot. It’s just your average, ordinary train robbery where robbers seize their treasure while there are casualties that suffer the consequences. The final shot of the film would scare audiences back then into thinking that they were actually getting shot! Need a reminder? No problem…

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Post in the comments your honest answer if you would feel terrified of this shot if you saw this for the first time in 1903. (Judgment free zone here!)

Watch this primary Western film and comment your thoughts on the film: 

 

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2 thoughts on “#2 The Great Train Robbery (1903)

  1. Considering that this was only a year or so later than “Trip To The Moon” the technological advancement is incredible. Granted, working under the auspices of Edison would have allowed Porter access to much better equipment, but the fact this was shot on location and (mostly) not against painted backdrops adds greatly to the realism. In fact, the square dance scene looks horribly out of place and unrealistic compared to the rest of the film. The scene inside the train car with the treeline moving outside the window is particularly effective. I like the fact that the “final” scene (the outlaw leader shooting at the camera and, by extension, the audience) was intended to be run either before, after or not at all, depending on the audience. That shot is called “Realism”. Very interesting.

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