The sound has been found in the form of an old Edisonian recording cylinder. The cylinder was repaired, then Walter Murch ACE MPSE synced the film to the correct music in (I believe) 2002. Total running time is approximately 17 seconds.
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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 »
The earliest extant sound film. William K.L. Dickson stands in the background next to a huge sound pickup horn connected to a Thomas Edison phonograph recorder. As he plays a violin, two men dance in the foreground. This film was made to demonstrate a new Thomas Edison machine, the Kinetophone. These machines were Kinetoscope peepshow viewers mated with Thomas Edison wax cylinder phonographs. But the Kinetophone never caught on and this film was never released. The film still exists, but the phonograph soundtrack has been lost. Written by
Steven W. Siferd <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A Curiosity With Considerable Historical Significance
Quite a curiosity both technically and in its content, this very brief experimental film is an important part of the early history of the movies. It shows how very early in the history of cinema that film-makers hoped to synchronize sound with motion pictures, and perhaps also shows how close they came. If an early attempt like this had succeeded in making it possible to create 'talking' pictures while the whole industry was still in its earliest stages, it seems possible that movie history could well have developed in quite different ways than it actually did.
As it has now been reconstructed using more recent technology, from the film footage and the remains of the original sound cylinder, the sound quality is surprisingly good. In itself, it is not all that far from the sound in much later experiments like the 1925 Theodore Case movie starring Gus Visser, and to early part-sound releases like "The Jazz Singer". Since the initial filming succeeded in its goal, the snags with this attempt seem all to have come in playback, when every attempt at synchronization failed, leaving it to much later film-makers to solve that problem.
The unusual content also makes it a curiosity, as is evidenced by the sometimes widely varying responses to it. It would have been more expected for an experiment like this to use amusing but innocuous subject matter, as Case did much later with Visser's vaudeville act.
As short as the footage of this movie is, it has considerable interest as a piece of movie history, and it's even possible that there is still more to be learned about it.
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