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December 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Review

Early Cinema – Primitives and Pioneers  
2-DVD compilation of early silent movies.
  The British Film Institute (bfi)
  Available on DVD Video BFIVD 643
Running Time: N/A
Amazon UK

This absolutely fascinating compilation departs from our usual dedication to the music aspect of cinema except to say each of the 60 short films in this compilation are accompanied by specially composed, sensitively conceived and played music for piano performed by Neil Brand, Stephen Horne and John Sweeney - all pianists at the National Film Theatre, London.

The accompanying, profusely illustrated 20-page booklet describes the films (from France, England)and America) created between 1895 and 1910.  It is a remarkable testimony to the rapidly advancing techniques over that period.  Devices such as close-ups, panning shots, and cut-aways are illustrated and there are some charming narrative films such as Méliès tinted fantasy film, Voyages à travers l’impossible (1904) in which wildly gesticulating professors invent weird ships to take them out into space and to the moon (or is it the sun?) and Daring Daylight Robbery (1903) featuring the Sheffield Fire Brigade, it had a number of chase sequences and a definite dramtic structure. It was one of the most commercially successful films up to that time. Rescued by Rover (1905), another immensely successful film that showed how a brave and clever dog rescued a baby from the gypsy villain who had kidnapped her. It was produced by the Hepworth Manufacturing Company for the princely sum of  £7 13s 9d (old money)!

Probably the most famous film in the collection is Edison’s early western adventure, The Great Train Robbery (1903). The star of the film, ‘Bronco Billy’ Anderson went on to play the chief roles in 375 cowboy and adventure films that were issued weekly.  The photographer Edwin S. Porter went on to co-found (with Adolph Zukor) Famous Players forerunners of Paramount.

A treasure house of early cinema.classics.  Recommended.

Ian Lace

N/A

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