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The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)

 -  Short | History  -  August 1895 (USA)
6.8
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A short film depicting the execution of Mary, Queen of the Scots. Mary is brought to the execution block and made to kneel down with her neck over it. The executioner lifts his axe ready to... See full summary »

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Storyline

A short film depicting the execution of Mary, Queen of the Scots. Mary is brought to the execution block and made to kneel down with her neck over it. The executioner lifts his axe ready to bring it down. After that frame Mary has been replaced by a dummy. The axe comes down and severs the head of the dummy from the body. The executioner picks up the head and shows it around for everyone else to see. One of the first 'camera tricks' to be used in a movie. Written by Sujit R. Varma

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Short | History

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August 1895 (USA)  »

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Execution  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

The execution was so real to audiences that some believed a woman actually gave her life for the beheading scene. See more »

Connections

Featured in Edison: The Invention of the Movies (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Good (If Macabre) Special Effects For Its Time
23 June 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

For its day, this dramatization of Mary Stuart's execution has effective and believable special effects. The combination of the macabre subject matter and the brand-new visual trick must have produced quite a reaction from its audiences in 1895, given the accounts of how early movie audiences sometimes reacted even to much milder material.

The execution scene doesn't really have much that identifies the subject as Mary, Queen of Scots, and in fact some details would be at odds with a couple of the known historical facts about her death. But in itself, it is believable enough. It's certainly possible to tell that it uses a camera trick, but it was probably very effective in its time. The surviving print is rather blurry, but in this case it almost makes it seem more believable, by making some of the rough edges a little less obvious.

Special camera effects have now become so refined that it's hard to be as impressed with those done long ago. Yet even today, once you've seen enough computer-generated images, their seams start to show too, except for the very best of them. In its day, this would have come pretty close to setting the standard.


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