Atop a wonderful central pedestal, a happy clown puts the finishing touches on a William Tell's incomplete model, assembling the mannequin limb by limb with the intention of shooting a target off of its head with a potent crossbow.
Atop a 19th-century coal-fired steam locomotive, filmmaker Georges Méliès' camera records the one-minute phantom ride of a moving train. From a point of view behind the steam engine, the viewer watches the quiet suburban scenery and the bustling cityscape unfold before him, as the streamlined machine passes under bridges and travels through a station.Written by
It's hard to understand exactly why Georges Méliès was still occasionally filming documentary shorts by 1898. Back in 1896 it was excusable--after all, Méliès hadn't yet 'discovered' (as some people like to believe) the film edit or any of the special effects you see in later works of his. By 1898, however, he was well aware of this...so why is he still doing things like sticking cameras on trains?
Part of this could have been he had not yet found out all the stuff he could produce using this simple editing concept. Like others of the time, he was still playing with the invention, trying new things... In this case, the camera is on TOP of the train, not at the front of the locomotive like most Phantom Ride films of the time (a Phantom Ride being a view from on top of a train as shot by the camera). Likely he hadn't yet tried such a gimmick yet. I guess it would take a bit longer for him to realize the potential of the substitution splice.
This one still retains interest for at least film historians because it's one of the few rare documentary films by the director that still survives today. Many of his earlier, 1896 and 1897 documentaries cease to exist. That said, I don't even know exactly how film historians are able to identify this as being a Méliès short since so many similar movies were made at the time. It's interesting in these regards, but not really your normal Méliès film and something the average person now will want to skip.
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