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A Photographic Contortion (1901)

The Big Swallow (original title)
A man, objecting to being filmed, comes closer and closer to the camera lens until his mouth is all we see. Then he opens wide and swallows camera and cinematographer. He steps back, chews, and grins.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Sam Dalton
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Storyline

Here is a most novel picture. A prominent actor with wonderful talent for facial contortion is standing some distance from the camera. As the film is set in motion, he walks toward the lens until his head grows into enormous proportions. He then stands so close to the camera that every wrinkle in his face, and in fact, the pores of his skin are plainly shown and greatly magnified. As he comes closer to the lens he opens his mouth wide, and is biting at the instrument all the while. He is then seen to swallow the camera, operator and all. He is next seen backing away from the instrument, smacking lips and rubbing his stomach in great glee. Very funny and a great hit. Written by Edison Catalog

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Comedy | Short

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September 1902 (USA)  »

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A Photographic Contortion  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director James Williamson's 1901 catalog describes the film thusly: "I won't! I won't! I'll eat the camera first." See more »

Connections

Featured in Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not about a large bird.
22 March 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

A delightful experiment in self-reflexivity from the days of early cinema, when enquiry about this new form was still encouraged before the standardisation of production and genre. A man finds he's being filmed; angered at this intrusion of his privacy, he approaches the camera and its operator, and eats them both!

The slow, looming mouth is a parody avant la lettre of horror films, an ordinary person turned into a monster, a giant by the cinema, in the same way ordinary people suddenly became huge when projected on a screen. Here we see that film doesn't just record things, it can enlarge, focus in close-up, distort, simply by magnifying a familiar feature. Maybe this is what the Indians meant in decrying soul-destroying photography; here, this ordinary man's soul becomes, punningly, negative.

Of course, the conceit isn't fully worked out - while it's lovely seeing the munching satisfaction of the avenging diner, especially as the shrunken cameraman was slurped up like so much spaghetti, it would be impossible for a camera in a man's belly to film the man from outside. There is always a second camera, filming silently on. This is the concerted power of cinema - you can do what you like, even eat its minions, but it'll still be there, like a Gothic doppelganger, immovable, watching your every move.


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