Frank Mills was a Canadian who was a member of the Bland Holt touring company. He was clad in Ned Kelly's actual armor for the filming of the movie, and disappeared before it was finished. An extra had to complete the filming in long shots after Frank Mills left. See more »
This afternoon at the Barbican, I attended the UK premiere of the digitally restored 'The Story of the Kelly Gang', with excellent piano accompaniment by John Sweeney, as part of the opening day's programme for the Silent Film & Live Music Series running through June. It's also part of the London Australian Film Festival, likewise at the Barbican ... so, I actually ended up attending two film festivals simultaneously! The restored film is a double-bill with 'The Life Story of John Lee: The Man They Could Not Hang'.
'The Story of the Kelly Gang' is generally believed to be (and most likely WAS) the first feature-length movie ever made, produced in 1906. Sadly, the past tense is appropriate here, as the film is now not known to survive except in fragments ... and some of those do indeed appear to be out-takes, as a previous IMDb'er has noted. Actually, I've also seen (in Australia) another reel of this film: not a projection of the movie's image onto a screen, but rather I've seen (and touched) a mouldering reel of nitrate footage from the movie itself, now deteriorated beyond hope of restoration.
As a part-time Australian (born in Scotland, expatriated Down Under as a 'child migrant'), I ought to feel proud that Australia produced the first feature movie. However, quite enough films pre-dating 1906 survive (from various nations) to make it clear that a substantial amount of film technique -- the close-up, the dissolve, the cross-cut -- had already evolved before this movie was made. Watching this restoration at the Barbican, it occurred to me that credit for the single biggest innovation in 'The Story of the Kelly Gang' belongs not to the photographer, director, editor or scenarist, but rather to that most unsung of film figures ... old Smokey, the projectionist. Prior to 'The Story of the Kelly Gang', films were so short that it was possible to store two or more separate movies on one projection reel. And, each reel being a separate story, the breaks between reels were natural breaks in the narrative. Many early cinemas had only one projector, with live entertainment provided during the longeur while the previous reel was rewound before the next reel could be shown. However, when 'The Story of the Kelly Gang' was exhibited in its original form in Australia (and later in other countries), the projectionist had to maintain two sets of apparatus at the same go, so as to achieve a seamless transition between reels. I wonder how soon film editors began using a reel marker (traditionally in the frame's upper right-hand corner) to indicate that a reel was about to end.
Despite being largely missing in action, the original 'Story of the Kelly Gang' is of incalculable historic importance. As for the digital version which I enjoyed today, accompanied by Mr Sweeney's impressive performance on the keyboard, I'll rate it a full 10 out of 10. Bonzer, cobbers!
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