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Lion Hunting (1907)

Løvejagten (original title)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Axel Graatkjær Axel Graatkjær ... (as A. Sørensen)
Viggo Larsen ... Løvejæger
Knud Lumbye Knud Lumbye ... Løvejæger
William Thomsen William Thomsen ... Black Bearer
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Country:

Denmark

Release Date:

11 November 1908 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Lion Hunting See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Nordisk Film See more »
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Sound Mix:

Silent
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Well......a classic of sorts
19 September 2015 | by kekseksaSee all my reviews

This film seems to be all over the place on IMDb, as 1908 and as 1907 (and I rather suspect the "US" film "Lion Hunt" listed as 1906 is really the same again) but in a way this confusion is a fair reflection of the popularity the film enjoyed at the time.

And the fakery in the film could not be more obvious for the very good reason that it was meant to be. The film is a kind of parody (native bearers didn't crawl on all fours even in 1907 and the cigarette-smoking scene with the bearer, quite inconceivable in a real hunting film, is a hoot). You only have to glance at any genuine hunting films from the period (and there are plenty of them) to appreciate the difference.

But, it has to be said, all the elements we see here are actually there in the real hunting films - the fat-headed, self-satisfied pith-helmeted hunters, the bearer who does all the real work,the glee over the slaughtering and skinning (an aspect on which all the contemporay hunting films concentrate). A very good example is La Chasse en Abyssinie, a gruesome Belgian film made of a genuine lion-hunt just the year after this by eccentric aristocrat Hyacinthe Octavie Frédérique Louise Irénée Rolande Pirmez.

What shocked people "back then" - and it would shock modern audiences a whole lot more - was not that the lions were shot (lions were pretty much by definition shot in any hunting film that involved them) but because, or so the story went, the founder and boss of Nordisk and producer of the film, Ole Olsen, had bought these two wretched beasts from a circus with the express purpose of shooting them, not just with a camera but with guns as well. In other words this was supposedly a kind of "snuff" film.

Ole Olsen was really a bit of a rascal by any standards and this whole film was something of a carefully-conceived publicity stunt for the newly-founded Nordisk Company. And it worked a dream. The word got around about the film; the Danish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals complained to the authorities who banned the making of the film. Olsen ignored them and went ahead. The film was banned when it came out but Olsen just slipped it across the border and premiered it in Sweden. And, as a direct result of all this shenanigans, the film was a huge international success and did indeed set Nordisk on its dizzy path to glory.

A question remains. Is it really a "snuff" film? Quite frankly I doubt it. Some critics and film-historians seem to accept that it is, just as the reviewers here do, but I find that people in 2015 are quite often more gullible and naive than folk were a hundred years ago. The fact is, 1) the rumours about the making of the film spread before the film was actually made, indicating of course that they were quite deliberately leaked by Olsen 2) the charges of cruelty to animals were very quickly dropped and the film came out quite normally, even in Denmark, in 1908. The fact that one supposedly sees the lions killed and that one subsequently sees lion-skins on display (as in any real hunting film)of course proves nothing. It would be preposterous to suppose that a bunch of busy film-makers took time about between scenes to slaughter lions....

A nice codicil can be discovered if you follow the link in the "Connections" section. A group of Swedish students at Lund University made five films for their Carnival celebrations in 1908 including one called Lejonjakten which is a spoof of this film (a spoof of a spoof really) in which actors dressed up as animals get shot by hunters who then get arrested by the police. What is interesting to note about this little parody is that is not at all intended as an attack on Olsen and his film but on the stupidity of the authorities (there had been trouble in Sweden between the police and students).

A not dissimilar but rather more realistic Pathé film exists, A Tragic Panther Hunt. This too, although genuinely filmed in Africa, is clearly a fiction. The hunter is attacked by the panther (presumably in fact a trained panther) after which one sees the carcass of a dead panther (presumably not the same one). The film is a tiny 9.5m snippet produced for home-viewing on a Pathé-Baby but in all probability was made by Pathé's panther expert Alfred Machin and may possibly be an extract from his 1913 full-length documentary Voyage et grandes chasses en Afrique.

In some ways with this film Olsen invented the "exploitation" film which became something of a Nordisk trademark. The same year the same team, the writer Nielsen, the director/star Larsen and the cinematographer Graatkjaer/Sørensen made the first "white slavery" film, Den hvide Slavinde, a lurid piece of sensationalism about women being kidnapped and forced its prostitution which set off another international film fad, caused all sorts of rumpus over censorship and even contributed to a change in the law in the US (the Mann Act)

On "cruelty to animals" as a form of visual pornography at this time, see my review of A Spanish Bullfight 1900.


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