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Mess Call (1896)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Short | 1 January 1896 (USA)
Members of the New York state militia enjoy some relaxing time during a meal break.

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It's meal time at a training camp for the New York state militia at Peekskill, New York. An Edison Company film crew has set up a camera to film the soldiers, and it gradually attracts their attention. As the soldiers eat and drink, many of them come closer to the camera, smiling and gesturing towards it. Written by Snow Leopard

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Documentary | Short

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Not Rated
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1 January 1896 (USA)  »

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Featured in Edison: The Invention of the Movies (2005) See more »

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Amusing Because of the Reactions of Its Subjects
2 November 2005 | by See all my reviews

While this Edison feature was originally made in the hope of capitalizing on the popularity of military-themed movies at the time, it turned out to have been entertaining for an entirely different reason. There are a great many early movies (especially the Lumière classics) that feature footage of non-professional subjects to whom the camera itself was a novelty. The reactions of the earliest movie subjects are always of some interest, but especially so here, in that the soldiers show unfeigned curiosity, interest, and excitement about being filmed.

The footage was taken at a New York Militia training camp in upstate New York, and the decision to film at meal time turned out to determine the tone of the footage. Whether it was intentional or not, catching the servicemen while they were at ease gave them the chance to act in a completely natural manner.

While many other movies of the era show the persons being filmed trying hard to look as if nothing special is happening - with perhaps one or two persons in a crowd unable to hold back a reaction - these men make no attempt to hide their excitement. They wave, smile, gesture, and horse around with an innocence that is quite entertaining to watch. They are probably expressing an honest enthusiasm that many others had, but were afraid to display openly, about the earliest movies.


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