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A Kiss in the Tunnel (1899)

The Kiss in the Tunnel (original title)
A humorous subject intended to be run as a part of a railroad scene during the period in which the train is passing through a tunnel.

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Credited cast:
Laura Bayley Laura Bayley ... Wife (as Mrs. George Albert Smith)
George Albert Smith ... Husband


Consisting of three brief shots--an opening point-of-view scene with the camera fixed to the front of the locomotive, or "Phantom Ride"; a saucy middle shot, and a closing scene--pioneer filmmaker George Albert Smith's original short is an excellent example of early continuity editing, which eloquently portrays a loving couple's impromptu expression of affection. As the train enters a short and dark tunnel, the husband decides to display his tenderness with a gentle caress on his wife's chin--and moments later--one joyful peck on the lips leads to another, and then, yet another one, against the backdrop of (simulated) total darkness. Is a daring kiss in the tunnel what it takes to keep his charming lady smiling for the rest of the journey? Written by Nick Riganas

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Plot Keywords:

1800s | 800s | shot | point | point of view | See All (57) »


Short | Comedy | Romance





Release Date:

November 1899 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

A Kiss in the Tunnel See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Contains of the earliest shots of the technique called "phantom ride". This entails the camera and or cameraman positioned onto the front of the train, here, and the viewer then gets the viewpoint / experience of being at the forefront of the then moving train. See more »

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User Reviews

Multiple Shots and Phantom Rides
2 March 2008 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

In the beginning of film history, producers didn't control the final appearance of their films as they do today. This was when exhibitors purchased films rather than renting them and when films consisted of a single shot-scene. Soon, producers made multiple one-shot films with a shared theme, but exhibitors could still choose which shots they purchased and how to assemble them into programs. Finally, producers created multi-shot films with complex narratives, placed their own title cards within them, and distributors sold (and, later, rented) these films only as a whole. This film, George Albert Smith's "The Kiss in the Tunnel", is one of the more important and interesting films in this transition.

The British Film Institute (BFI) print that we have today is a three-shot film. The first and last shots are from a phantom ride film by Cecil Hepworth, which had the appropriate title "View from Engine Front – Train Leaving Tunnel" (1899). Phantom rides were an early and popular genre of films. They were a point-of-view (POV) shot from the "perspective" of a moving train. The cameraman would mount the camera to the locomotive and point the camera forward. These films provided a constantly shifted framing of scenery and, thus, were some of the earliest to feature moving camera shots. Reportedly, the phantom ride genre began with the American Mutoscope Company's "The Haverstraw Tunnel" (1897). Additionally, the Lumière Company had largely introduced the moving camera shot by placing the camera on a moving object, like a train or boat, such as in, perhaps the first such film, "Panorama du Grand Canal vu d'un bateau" (1896).

Smith made the insert shot, which is supposed to be set in the interior of a railway carriage. Smith specifically made this film, and it was advertised as such, to be edited into a phantom ride film as the train passed through a tunnel--as is the case in the BFI copy. At this time, Hepworth films and Smith films were both distributed by the Warwick Trading Company, which may help explain the marriage of these two films in the BFI print. This arrangement would serve as quite a surprising and comedic experience to viewers accustomed to such one shot, non-fiction, and non-narrative phantom rides, as the 40-foot long scene by Smith shows the director himself and his actress-wife kissing under the privacy of the tunnel's darkness.

The interior scene is primitive in its mise-en-scène; the painted set by Smith's assistant (and often times, actor) Tom Green, including the black-colored windows, is cheap, and the shadows of the actors make it evident that Smith filmed this at an open-air set. Yet, as Frank Gray has pointed out in his essay "The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899), G.A. Smith and the Emergence of the Edited Film in England", this film was pivotal in the transition from single-shot films to multi-shot ones and more elaborate narratives, as well as in the transition of editorial control away from exhibitors and to producers. Moreover, the film demonstrates how shots filmed at different locations and at different times may be edited together to appear spatially and temporally continuous and how the juxtaposition of two separate continuous actions cohesively forms a narrative. This was a groundbreaking expansion of film grammar at the time.

Smith would continue to introduce further innovations in scene dissection and continuity editing in his subsequent productions. His films and those by other early British filmmakers had an immense influence on the work of others--perhaps most importantly on Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Company in America and Ferdinand Zecca for the Pathé Company in France. Porter and Zecca both remake this particular film. One innovation of these two remakes is that they use matte shots for passing scenery through the compartment's window. Zecca's film "Flirt en chemin de fer" (1901) is otherwise (according to Charles Musser and Tom Gunning, who I'll trust since I haven't seen it) a straightforward remake of Smith's film. Porter's film "What Happened in the Tunnel" (1903), however, includes a racist joke involving the switching of seats between a young woman with her mammy as the suitor attempts to kiss the young woman in the darkness of the tunnel. In Lubin's remake "Love in a Railroad Train" (1902), his joke addition involved the kissing of the bottom of the woman's baby. Riley and Bamforth Films also remade Smith's film with the same title and within the same year. That remake, however, wasn't to be part of a phantom ride. Its bookend shots are stationary, objective perspectives unattached to the train and are of the train entering and exiting the tunnel. In addition to the more low-key acting in it, it doesn't seem to serve the same humorous purpose. The interior set is better, though.

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