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The Evidence of the Film (1913)

 -  Crime | Short  -  10 January 1913 (USA)
6.1
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 177 users  
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A messenger boy is wrongfully accused of stealing bonds worth $20,000.

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Title: The Evidence of the Film (1913)

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Cast

Credited cast:
William Garwood ...
The Broker
Marie Eline ...
Messenger Boy
Riley Chamberlin ...
Clerk
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Florence La Badie ...
Sister of Little Boy
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Storyline

A messenger boy is wrongfully accused of stealing bonds worth $20,000.

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Genres:

Crime | Short

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10 January 1913 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Goofs

SPOILERS. When the sister discovers the footage of the crime being committed, the insert shots showing the film are of a different angle than what is actually projected later. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Or, The Dishonest Broker's Dastardly Scheme
25 July 2003 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Since there doesn't seem to be any way to write about this movie coherently without revealing the ending, I'll note right at the top that this review will contain "spoilers." Viewers who wish to fully savor the impact of the twist ending should read no further!

All right then. Our subject is The Evidence of the Film, a recently rediscovered one-reel drama made in New Rochelle, New York, under the auspices of the Thanhauser Studio. The plot concerns a Dishonest Broker (as he is helpfully identified by a title card) who plots to steal bonds worth $20,000 and blame his act on a messenger boy. This broker-- who looks like an Edward Gory drawing of a Well-born Gentleman Gone Bad, and whose villainy is amusingly transparent from the beginning --sends off the boy with the genuine bonds, but then contrives to bump into him on a public street. After 'accidentally' knocking the boy to the ground he helps him up, meanwhile switching envelopes, substituting one full of paper scraps for the real bonds, which he pockets. Subsequently, the innocent lad is accused of theft!

Alas, the broker's dastardly plan comes off without a hitch, and the kid, who looks about six years old (and is actually played by a girl), lands in jail. However, there's another surprise in store, this time a distinctly "modern" one: the broker hadn't allowed for the presence of a crew of movie-makers working on location, coincidentally shooting a scene on the very sidewalk where the collision occurs-- happily, within range of the camera. In the opening scene we learn that the messenger boy's sister works as a film-cutter; and, just when things look truly bleak for the lad, we find that she works for the very studio whose crew captured the crime on celluloid. In a scene anticipating David Hemmings' dark room investigation in Antonioni's Blow-Up by more than half a century, we watch as the boy's sister examines the location footage, recognizes her brother, and realizes what actually occurred on that sidewalk. Thus, justice triumphs, thanks to the miraculous new technology of the motion picture!

This movie is a fascinating treat for film buffs, but, as my tone may suggest, it's amusing on a level the filmmakers probably didn't intend. Despite a plot twist made possible by brand new 20th century technology, the atmosphere is redolent of Victorian melodrama; the messenger boy's outfit even suggests David Copperfield. Viewers may well chuckle as the film-within-a-film unfolds in the climactic scene: the Dishonest Broker looks so corrupt, his envelope maneuver is so clumsily performed, and he so obviously commits his crime in full view of the camera, how can we help but laugh? The camera is not hidden, mind you, it's grinding away in plain sight on a public street, and you'd think that in 1913 this spectacle would draw even more attention than it might today, when we're so accustomed to seeing video crews taping commercials or news segments, or whatever. The Dishonest Broker is not only dastardly, he's a bit thick.

Oh well. Despite aspects which look silly now, this movie must have represented an imaginative leap forward in its time. Film itself serves as a pivotal plot element, which must have been a surprising, creative twist for contemporary viewers. The Evidence of the Film also provides an interesting sociological note: the studio cutting room where the boy's sister works is staffed entirely by women. This points up the fact that, in the movies' early days, women were employed in greater numbers in all areas of the film industry than would be the case later on, after the big studios consolidated operations in the 1920s.


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