Home Dc Movies THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY: The First Motion Movie’s Daring Plot and Defining Remaining Shot

THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY: The First Motion Movie’s Daring Plot and Defining Remaining Shot

THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY: The First Motion Movie’s Daring Plot and Defining Remaining Shot


Some movie genres are usually not interesting to sure cinephiles. Some folks say “no approach” to straight-up horror whereas others aren’t eager on romantic adventures. Nevertheless, the one style that almost all can watch and discover leisure and worth inside its narratives (not less than, to a point) is motion. There’s really one thing for everybody below that umbrella, whether or not it’s an epic sci-fi house saga, spy fiction, or a shoot ‘em up model story. From tried-and-true flicks like Die Arduous to newer classics just like the John Wick franchise, motion films have been a serious a part of our leisure expertise for many years. However the place did all of it start? What’s the first film that set the motion style in movement? Let’s get right into a little bit of movie historical past. 

As all the time, it’s exhausting to pinpoint a “first” in a long time previous contemplating the plethora of impartial creatives whose works might not be on our common radar. However fairly just a few movie historians usually agree that the primary motion film ever is The Nice Practice Theft, directed by Edwin S. Porter, who additionally did the movie’s cinematography. 

The Nice Practice Theft’s Daring Plot


The Nice Practice Theft is a 1903 black-and-white silent movie. It’s loosely primarily based on the 1893 stage play of the identical title by Scott Marble. (We’ll dig into its historical past and conception story later.) The 12(ish)-minute flick follows a band of outlaws who rob a steam locomotive station, flee throughout the mountains, and finally face defeat by the hands of a crew of formidable locals. The Nice Practice Theft wastes no time leaping into motion. It begins with a theft at gunpoint earlier than the bandits take over a shifting practice. They commit homicide, accost the conductor, and drive all of the passengers off the practice after looting them earlier than heading again in direction of a valley.

The vagabonds meet their match because of a band of heroic guys who save the day. The movie ends with one bandit emptying his pistol into the digital camera. This chilling closing body was primed to change into popular culture historical past. Throughout this time interval, The Nice Practice Theft was fairly the rousing spectacle with its motion, violence, suspense, some severe piano enjoying, and stable sensible results for a movie of this period. Even with an precise plot, does it nonetheless barely lean extra in direction of visible spectacle than character growth and tightening narrative gaps? Yeah. Nevertheless, creativeness and private interpretation can fill in these areas and create a singular expertise.  

The Nice Practice Theft’s Historical past, Inspirations, and Filming

The early-1900s movie panorama was a time of nice innovation and chaos as everybody wished to get their slice of the shifting image pie. Previous to The Nice Practice Theft, Edwin S. Porter began his profession making movie tools like cameras and movie projectors. He notably created a tool to manage the depth of an electrical mild, which modified the sport for future cinematographers. After a hearth destroyed his workshop on the flip of the century, Porter took a contract mission with the Edison Manufacturing Firm to enhance their tools.

The enterprise was profitable and Porter grew to become a cameraman. On the time, a film’s cameraman additionally had inventive management akin to what administrators have immediately. This made it a robust behind-the-scenes place. Initially, Porter’s model was easy and simple to imitate the signature strategy of the Edison Manufacturing Firm. However, he started to department out and discover international movies. This occurred across the identical time that George Méliès set the business on hearth with the first sci-film movie, A Journey to the Moon (1902). Scammers and pirates (together with recognized messy man Thomas Edison) imitated his model and hit his pockets exhausting.

A promotional poster for The Great Train Robbery

A Journey to the Moon‘s a number of scenes, meticulous enhancing, and particular results inspired Porter to deliver that type of power into his work. Sadly, Edison later distributed unlawful copies of Méliès’ movie, contributing to the rampant business problem of securing copyright. (As a notice, Porter later made the very questionable Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That earns him a aspect eye on common precept.) 

In the meantime, Porter delivered films like 1902’s Jack and the Beanstalk, which was clearly influenced by Méliès model, and Lifetime of an American the next 12 months. The latter is the place he started to make use of a novel enhancing approach referred to as dramatic enhancing. Scenes shot at completely different locations and instances had been pieced collectively. After some success, he set his sights on The Nice Practice Theft. The movie was impressed not solely by the aforementioned play of the identical title but in addition Westerns. Even then, folks beloved a great story occurring within the open lands of America.

So, to be clear, The Nice Practice Theft is way from the primary Western movie. Nevertheless, it was definitely an early affect for the TV and movies that might observe. Stage Coach Maintain Up and the British movie Kidnapping by Indians had been doubtless direct influences on Porter’s work. And, in fact, artwork all the time has a approach of imitating and reflecting its time interval. In 1900, Butch Cassidy and his comrades robbed a Union Pacific Street practice and escaped seize. What higher content material to additional gasoline your narrative?! Mixed with the general public’s common affinity for trains and want for leisure, this movie was prepared to maneuver full steam forward. 

the great train robbery final shot with a bandit breaking the fourth wall and shooting at the camera first action film
Edison Manufacturing Firm

Filming befell over just a few days in November 1903 (just one month earlier than its official launch!) in a number of places, together with the Edison studio in New York and alongside the now-defunct Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The railroad spanned from Buffalo, NY to Hoboken, NJ so not precisely the West, however ok. The forged included Justus D. Barnes because the chief of the outlaw collective, Walter Cameron as a sheriff, and G.M. Anderson in a number of roles, together with a murdered passenger and a robber. To save lots of a bit of money, a number of Edison workers took on background roles. No main stars like Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington had been round on the time to prepared the ground. However Anderson later grew to become a legend who is named “ The First Cowboy-Western Film Star.”

From a filming standpoint, The Nice Practice Theft’s outside places, mixture of studio scenes with onsite footage, and several other photographs with a shifting digital camera gave it an edge. All of this fed into Porter’s main goal to deal with motion and magnificence versus character growth. 

The Nice Practice Theft’s Launch, Reactions, and Enduring Legacy 

The Edison Manufacturing Firm started to tease the movie to exhibitors in November, saying it could be a sensation. A tough minimize of the movie additionally went to the Library of Congress with the intention to safe a copyright on its materials. Edison offered the ultimate minimize to exhibitors to display in vaudeville homes for $111, with the primary exhibiting going down at Huber’s Museum in New York Metropolis. It grew to become successful because the headlining attraction at a number of vaudeville homes earlier than making its solution to new leisure venues like nickelodeons, indoor exhibition areas designed to point out movement footage for, you guessed it, a nickel.

The Nice Practice Theft was successful amongst audiences and a few early movie reviewers/critics praised its motion scenes and well timed materials. Regardless of submitting the movie to the Library of Congress, just a few imitators nonetheless had their very own variations. Essentially the most egregious one comes from Lubin Manufacturing Firm in 1904. This remake of types, hilariously named The Daring Financial institution Theft, adjustments some primary plot particulars, however it’s exhausting to disclaim that the story stays awfully comparable.


Again then, the parameters round movie copyright had been nonetheless nebulous. And, to be trustworthy, it was a little bit of Edison getting a style of his personal drugs. In 1905, Porter hilariously made enjoyable of his personal movie with The Little Practice Theft. The story follows child bandits stealing sweet and toys.

Many years later, The Nice Practice Theft continues to resonate with movie historians and followers of motion movies. A number of cornerstone parts in Western (and common motion) movies like fisticuffs, gunplay, and using on horseback to pursue a goal. In reality, we noticed all three of those within the just lately launched John Wick: Chapter 4. In 1990, The Nice Practice Theft was added to the US Nationwide Movie Registry for its significance in well-liked tradition. 


The ultimate close-up scene of Barnes staring on the digital camera is undoubtedly the movie’s most influential and iconic shot. It doesn’t tie into the narrative in any approach whereas additionally breaking the fourth wall. The shot may be seen as a message to viewers that it doesn’t matter what, the violence will proceed with new faces and conditions. The ultimate scene of Goodfellas when Tommy DeVito shoots on the digital camera pays direct homage to this shot. James Bond’s iconic gun barrel sequences additionally appear to be extra of a nod to this idea. Breaking Dangerous additionally famously ends its season 5 episode “Lifeless Fright” with an in-the-camera gunshot scene. 

As they are saying, the remainder is historical past. The Nice Practice Theft paved the best way for numerous movies to come back that target intense motion, hand-to-hand fight, chase scenes, and the on a regular basis individual’s capability to change into heroic.



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