Firefighters ring for help, and here comes the ladder cart; they hitch a horse to it. A second horse-drawn truck joins the first, and they head down the street to a house fire. Inside a man... See full summary »



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Firefighters ring for help, and here comes the ladder cart; they hitch a horse to it. A second horse-drawn truck joins the first, and they head down the street to a house fire. Inside a man sleeps, he awakes amidst flames and throws himself back on the bed. In comes a firefighter, hosing down the blaze. He carries out the victim, down a ladder to safety. Other firefighters enter the house to save belongings, and out comes one with a baby. The saved man rejoices, but it's not over yet. Another resident appears upstairs. He jumps. Written by <>

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Plot Keywords:

firefighting | See All (1) »


Drama | Short




Release Date:

15 October 1901 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Fogo!  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Remade as Life of an American Fireman (1903) See more »

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User Reviews

a fascinating exploration of how cinema works.
22 March 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

This exciting rescue drama is a film milestone, the first to use an edited series of interlocking scenes to create a narrative. One would have been blase about this in 1903, never mind a century later; look at the early films consecutively, however, noticing how they develop basic film grammar, and the effect is thrilling, cutting from the fireman and victim moving from inside the house to outside on the ladder, a telling glimpse of cinema's power and immediacy.

The plot's simple enough - a house goes on fire and the firemen come to quench it and rescue the inhabitants. The fascination lies in the details. The way the fire's smoke swirls and obscures the view, a subversive element that undermines cinema's clarity, it's claim to record things - the firemen are not just extinguishing a fire, or restoring order, the primacy of property and family, but retrieving cinema's purpose, which here betrays interesting tensions.

The preparations of the firemen, laborious because the engine is still horse-drawn, and the animals are a little stroppy - the proud tumescence of a very phallic wheeled ladder is startling, suggesting that hazards to the social order can only be solved by the Men that run it. The gallop through gorgeous turn of the 20th century Brighton streets, eerily old (to us) and empty, the horses speeding towards the camera before veering to avoid it. The fire itself - the not very patriarchal hysteria of the father who just cries like a big girl without doing anything practical, particularly surprising when we discover he has a wife and child.

After he is rescued he waits in agoinising panic for someone: when his child is brought out and restored to him, the feminisation or maternalisation (sic?) of the father is unusual for the period. We assume his wife is dead, as he wanders off the screen, removing his child from the bourgeois home-haven that suddenly became so treacherous. When we see the wife rescued to her family's general indifference, it's shocking.

the breach in the film's form from the documentary-like preparations and rescue, and the flagrant artifice of the interior settings and the wild overacting results in an interesting tension that filmmakers like Murnau, Welles and Godard would later explore, and which echoes the film's ideological tensions, the vulnerability of the bourgeois myth.

Rounding off this brilliant film is the closing scene, a long shot of the smoking house with the firemen below it. There appears to be a huge peeling of the wall's paint, suggesting the house's age, which is visually startling, a visual violence matching the destructive fire. We discover that this is actually water from the hose - so that the saviours within the narrative create a breach in the film's form.

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