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Monkeyshines, No. 1 (1890)

Not Rated | | Short, Comedy, Family | 21 November 1890 (USA)
One of W.K.L. Dickson's laboratory workers horses around for the camera.
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Cast

Credited cast:
Giuseppe Sacco Albanese ... (as G. Sacco Albanese)
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Storyline

One of W.K.L. Dickson's laboratory workers horses around for the camera.

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Genres:

Short | Comedy | Family

Certificate:

Not Rated

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Release Date:

21 November 1890 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Csínytevések 1.  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

There is some disagreement amongst two W.K.L. Dickson biographers as to when this movie was actually shot and who is actually in the cast. Writer Paul Spehr believes that it was shot at an earlier date of 1889 with Edison employee John Ott. Gordon Hendricks agrees with later date of 1890 and employee G. Sacco Albanese as the cast member. See more »

Connections

Followed by Monkeyshines, No. 3 (1890) See more »

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The Birthpangs of Film
30 December 2016 | by See all my reviews

Monkeyshines No. 1 may not be the first film ever made (just as its financier, Thomas Edison, didn't really invent the movies). It is, however, one of the oldest surviving films and is believed to be the earliest film made in the United States. Indeed, Edison deserves tremendous amount of acclaim for his contributions to the art of film. Although Eadweard Muybridge and others may have pioneered what eventually became the motion picture camera, it was Edison's visionary desire to develop a device that could "do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear," and put it to commercial use, that led to the birth of films as we know them today. The Gay Nineties saw the emergence of this new art form and started to grasp at its limitless possibilities. Many of these early films are essentially short subject documentary films, dubbed "Actualities," that show snapshots of life during the final decade of the 19th century.

In 1890, film was going through its birth pangs. Edison and his team struggled to perfect a device that would create the illusion of life and movement from a series of still images. At this phase, the motion picture camera had not been invented yet. Edison's idea for projecting these images was to have a photographic filmstrip spiraling around a cylinder device (not unlike a phonograph), and the viewer would watch through a peephole kinetoscope. Monkeyshines No. 1 and No. 2 are early examples of films made using this process. At the time they were made, they were never intended for public exhibition; they were merely an internal test run of the system. Filmmakers William K.L. Dickson and William Heise shot these tests using lab worker G. Sacco Albanese as their subject. They were filmed outside Building 4 of the Edison Laboratory facility, which was used for performing iron-ore milling experiments.

These two films are impossible to review from a critical standpoint. They are not meant to be entertainment or art. They are, essentially, experiments in a new technological process. Both consist of Mr. Albanese doing little more than flail his arms, stretch, and move around for the benefit of the camera. The rudimentary technology that captured these images has not weathered the ravages of time very well, and Monkeyshines No. 1, in particular, has a very phantasmagorical effect as Albanese appears almost ghostly. Perhaps that is fitting, as these film remnants have allowed a ghostly image of him to live on over a century after the man himself passed away. Monkeyshines No. 2 is a little clearer in its presentation, but essentially more of the same. A casual viewer looking for even the tiniest shred of entertainment will walk away disappointed. However, the more intrepid film buff will likely find some interest, even if only academic, as part of a broader examination of both the origins of film and the Edison Company in particular. Either way, the story behind this early film is more interesting than the product itself, and one should approach it solely as a historical artifact.


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