Not enjoying as much popularity as his contemporary counterparts (perhaps due to his brief career), Gaston Velle made of "Dévaliseurs nocturnes" (one of his earliest directional efforts) one of his very best films, being a rather ambitious one as well.
Its title pretty much gives away the plot of the story, so I won't give anything else away, but it's worth highlighting the bicycle tracking shot, which was quite impressive for a 1904 movie (even though we can now clearly tell the bicycle was standing on some sort of moving platform, possibly a freight car). There's a well-defined storyline where every detail is taken care of. Add the traditional happy ending in order to please audiences, then you've got an entertaining movie.
Don't expect much more about this. As I said, the movie is complex for its day but so were others, and, unfortunately, Gaston Velle doesn't bring anything new to the scene. We could even say this is a good movie we've already seen before, reaching out to the commercial film concept. The actors do a good deed, especially the burglars, looking even quite professional, whereas the good ones look just as clumsy and ridiculous as real clowns.
The movie drags a little in the end but that's just a modern point of view to it. These days, we've got to see so many thief pursuits, I was frankly much more impressed by the beginning rather than the by its end, but I'm sure audiences were thrilled back then. Finally, my favorite scene is an outdoors night scene at the beginning. I believe the atmosphere caused the impact on me but I also believe it turned out that way just by pure chance. Anyhow, the movie is well-paced, well-intentioned and very entertaining (as said earlier). That's why it deserves to rank almost as high as its contemporaries despite its lack in originality.
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