|Index||8 reviews in total|
This short feature combines pleasant, enjoyable material with good
craftsmanship and some imagination. It was a remake of the 1901 film
"The Little Doctors", which apparently was permanently lost. Remade and
given the simpler title "Sick Kitten", it's a charming and creative
The engaging mini-story involves two children and two cats, one of which is unwell. The children's acting is really pretty good. They are lively, and they are naturally presented as being cute, but they are believable as well.
A number of G.A. Smith's films show that he seemed to have had the knack for getting believable performances like these from his cast.
As simple as the story is, both the tone and the technique are commendable. In many movies today, such scenes are too often presented with some kind of extraneous crudity inserted into the sequence, to keep it palatable to those with short attention spans. Alternatively, such scenes can be marred by labored post-modernist references or other pretentious material, to avoid the appearance of being too innocent or naive. To make this kind of simple, positive family scene believable and effective is really a more worthwhile achievement.
The technique is also worth noticing, as it shows one continual scene broken up into multiple segments with different camera viewpoints. While using this kind of technique is perhaps not a monumental creative insight, this seems to be one of the very earliest films to use it, and it certainly shows an appreciation for the material and for how best to communicate it to an audience.
Known as "The Sick Kitten", the 55 seconds short film presents a boy
and girl taking care of two kittens, one of them apparently sick is fed
with a spoonful of milk. I use the word apparently because it's very
easy to notice the kitten isn't sick, the way she/he drinks the milk
with so much energy, almost attacking the spoon and by the way cats
aren't so easy to deal with specially with a spoon.
George Albert Smith's "The Little Doctor and the Sick Kitten" works like a small magic trick. There's a problem to be solved (sick kitten), there's one solution (boy playing the doctor bringing the milk) and everyone gets happy and clapping at the ending. There isn't much to be said that this is one of cutest things ever filmed and more than 100 years later is still here for all of us to see it. Mention must be made about the quality of the film which is still impressive even for being from the early ages of film, the images are brilliantly presented, not grainy at all, you can see each scene with precision.
Well, I guess that's it. Now watch it. 10/10
This is George Albert Smith's remake of his own film "The Little
Doctors" (1901), which probably had its negatives worn out due to
reprints--hence it being remade. The original film is probably lost
forever. These two pictures must have been quite popular in their day.
Smith essentially introduced the close-up to motion pictures in 1900
with "As Seen Through a Telescope" and "Grandma's Reading Glass",
enhancing upon the medium close-up that had been quite popular since
the Edison Company's "The Kiss" (1896). In Smith's two aforementioned
films from 1900, the close-ups are point-of-view shots, with a mask
around the camera lens to create circular vignettes. In "As Seen
Through a Telescope", a man with a telescope looks at something, then
the film cuts to a close-up of what he's looking at through the
perspective of the telescope.
"Sick Kitten" contains a similar one scene, three-shot structure. There's a long shot, or establishing shot, followed by a close-up and the end takes us back to the original long shot position. The close-up in this film, however, doesn't involve camera masking or any character's point of view. It's a standard (as we know it today) close-up. It's also a match on action shot. It's seamlessly done and creates a good continuity. The same year, Edwin S. Porter's "The Gay Shoe Clerk", which is a reworking of "As Seen Through a Telescope", used a similar three-shot continuity: two establishing shots with a close-up inserted in the middle. Smith took this idea further within the same year in what is probably his most advanced surviving film, "Mary Jane's Mishap". Films with multiple shots were nothing new by 1903, but the scene dissection on display in these films by Smith were quite rare. For comparison, the most popular film from 1903, "The Great Train Robbery", has multiple shots, but they are all scenes in themselves. Oh, "Sick Kitten" doesn't have much of a story itself--just a couple of kids feeding a sick kitten. The cut to the close-up occurs during the feeding. Additionally, the children demonstrate that they were very aware that they were being filmed; the boy bows and holds his hat at the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film, based on the year it was made, wasn't that bad of a film to me. All it was was a little girl rocking in a chair with a cat on her lap and then a little boy in a top hat comes over and she feeds the cat some liquid and then it gets better. What did you expect? It would have made people mad if the cat had died in the end. You knew the outcome even before the movie started because that was how movies were back then. In 1903, people were still amazed that we were able to get pictures to move in front of them. That was what made it so interesting. And it had a plot to it. Roundhay Garden Scene had none, of course, it was only two seconds long, so they didn't have time to put one in.
This isn't the most engaging of films, but it is important in the development of cinema technique because of the way in which pioneering British filmmaker George Albert Smith transforms what would otherwise be a flat and somewhat dull film with the simple insertion of a close-up. The film shows two children and a couple of cats, one of which is supposed to be unwell. The cat sits on the girl's lap as a boy in an over-sized hat fetches a jug. The girl spoon-feeds medicine to the little kitten and it is at this point that Smith switches to a close-up of the kitten so that we can see it happily licking its medicine from the spoon. The film then returns to what was the establishing shot to show the boy removing his hat and bowing. It's no great shakes,and is fairly unremarkable when seen today, but it has a place in cinematic history.
I watched this film on a DVD that was rammed with short films from the
period. I didn't watch all of them as the main problem with these type
of things that their value is more in their historical novelty value
rather than entertainment. So to watch them you do need to be put in
the correct context so that you can keep this in mind and not watch it
with modern eyes. With the Primitives & Pioneers DVD collection though
you get nothing to help you out, literally the films are played one
after the other (the main menu option is "play all") for several hours.
With this it is hard to understand their relevance and as an
educational tool it falls down as it leaves the viewer to fend for
themselves, which I'm sure is fine for some viewers but certainly not
the majority. What it means is that the DVD saves you searching the web
for the films individually by putting them all in one place but
that's about it.
Having seen Smith use new techniques with his last few films this one was a bit of a letdown at first to me. It shows two children giving medicine to a sick cat and that's it. However only after reflection did I realise what was worth noting about it and, again, it is not the material (although the cat is cute). No Smith does two things of importance herein. Firstly he gets natural performances from the children and the cat, clearing that old saying had not been coined in his day. More importantly, although the film is one scene, it is broken up with close-ups on the action edited together to give the impression that it is all one continual time frame. OK this is nothing new and indeed it is so ordinary now for so long that I didn't even notice that it was happening in the same way as we don't notice breathing until we think about it.
So not a brilliant film but yet again an example of Smith experimenting with methods and devices in his films. The material is weak otherwise with only the cute and natural performances being of merit.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek Marxian film-school analysis of the films
in THE MOVIES BEGIN DVD set by Ms. Liddell-Hart and the amiable and
seemingly unsophisticated enthusiasms of Snow Leopard, these films
retain a fascination for those of us who are interested in old films
for their own sakes. For those of us who are not fascinated by history,
it is still interesting to see that there was cinema before, say, Adam
Sandler ... and to see things done for the first time is always
interesting. There is a freshness about the first time that
sophistication cannot repeat.
But we can also appreciate these films on their own terms, and further, in their ability to engage us today. It is interesting to put oneself in the mind of someone a hundred years ago, and, given the short lengths of these pieces, thirty seconds can give us a complete film.... and is that such a great investment? If we can appreciate the works of Sophocles and Plautus and Shakespeare, why can we not admire the work done by Mr. G.A. Smith?
And, speaking from a historical viewpoint, Smith's work is amazing, since he seems to have invented the 'grammar of cinema' as Lilian Gish claimed D.W. Griffith did, ten years before Griffith set foot on a movie stage! True, his compositions are not as sophisticated as Griffith's, but Smith was an experimental film-maker, while Griffith was trying to use the results of those experiments. He tells little stories that, because of their subject matters, often do not age well. Well then, they are stuck in their times. This year (2002) saw a new film production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, filled, as comedies of manners usually are, by people who would be spending their time in medical wards under heavy dosages of drugs in today's world. Yet we can laugh at Oscar Wilde's comedy and can, I hope, take pleasure from Mr. Smith's.
Okay, in 1903 this must have been considered a pretty good film. Back then, many of the films lasted only a minute or two and consisted of very mundane everyday activities--hence this dull film about a little girl feeding her sick cat. However, unlike many of the other raters, I STILL cannot rate this movie any higher than a 4 because there actually were GOOD films with plot, sets, acting and imaginative camera-work that should be elevated far above the boring drivel that was flooding the nickelodeons. Georges Méliès' films (not just his very famous LE VOYAGE DANS LE LUNE) were head and shoulders above the dull fare of the day. And this cat film is certainly one of those dull (but rather sweet) films.
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