0002: The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The Great Train Robbery

Rating: 6/10

Okay, once again, I’m really not going in order on these, I just saw that this had the same conditions as the first film: Less than 15 minutes long and totally free on YouTube. So let’s dive right in!

This was okay but nothing really stood out to me, not even the famous cowboy shooting at the camera at the end. I’ve read that that scene, because film making was so new and people weren’t sure how it worked at the time, audience members in the theater ducked or tried to get out of the way as the cowboy shot at them and is considered one of the most “terrifying” scenes in film history. Of course, being that I’ve seen at least a thousand movies already, I didn’t see anything special about it. I suppose that’s the problem with trying to see something like this through a 2018 lens, you can’t see something as groundbreaking as this as being little more than amateurish. It was groundbreaking too, being considered by many Americans by the first film with an actual story. This, of course, isn’t true but it was probably because the patent to make movies was strictly controlled by Thomas Edison as the time (if you watch the film you’ll notice his seal of approval after the final scene in the movie) so early American film directors could only do things if they went through him. The French had much more creative freedom with the new medium, so fortunately we have all those many early George Melies’ films, to say the least.

What I did enjoy was there was a lot of action, and though this might have been something more common in the early 1900s, since people road the train a whole lot more than they do now, it feels to me like a classic western story. There’s a full arc too (something else not very common at the time), the robbers stop the train and hold up the passengers by gunpoint, they get away and party at a local saloon, but then the cops/bounty hunters catch up to them as they try to escape and there’s a huge shootout. It tells a complete story, really something for its time, but when compared to the movies even ten years later, it’s really nothing special.

Why I think it’s on the List: Truthfully, I think it’s just because of the cowboy shooting at the screen at the end. Also, if I’m right about A Trip to the Moon not being on the list before the release of Hugo, it was probably the earliest film on the list before they added the Melies movie.

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