I can't imagine even audiences from 1910 being impressed by this one, and on this evidence it's hardly surprising that Melies' film-making career would be over in a couple more years.
Once shown to his cell and shackled by his elbows and ankles, Jim proceeds to free himself from any restraints the hapless officers placed in charge of him choose to use.
Trick photography was a favourite device of early filmmakers, and here pioneer French director Ferdinand Zecca moves firmly into Melies territory. The story, such as it is, is simply a succession of different trick shots and, in many ways, resembles a Looney Tunes cartoon in as much as the wretched cops in pursuit of Jim meet various fates - flattened, split-in-two, etc - only to miraculously return to their natural forms seconds later.
It's an amusing enough little film, but even at 10 minutes it runs a little long.
This is a fair early comedy, although Cumpson is no comic genius, and the likes of Chaplin or Arbuckle could no doubt have wrung much more from the material in just a few short years time. There are some nice touches: particularly the gum-chewing female shop assistant, who could quite easily have stepped out of any comedy movie made today.
It's all fairly predictable, but it only runs for four-and-a-half minutes, so it's worth a look.
This isn't one of Linder's best efforts, but neither is it his worst. It amuses, while failing to really create any laughs. It's odd how none of his neighbours seem bothered by his apparent nudity in the tub - in fact one guy doesn't even see him until he tries to climb in himself. The climax has Max scaling the side of a house with the bathtub on his back. The wall he and the pursuing police climb is obviously a painting on the floor across which the actors crawl as they pretend to climb.
The print I saw wasn't in particularly good condition - very grainy and blurred, but the size of the crowd watching is unmistakable. Once Johnson gets the better of Jeffries, the white fighter is given no time to recover from the blows that initially felled him by the referee - who was also the fight's promoter, stepping in after President William Taft and writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle both turned down the opportunity.
The film possesses Melies' characteristic energy and exuberance, but it's really no different from what he was producing five years earlier - simply a succession of stage tricks that no longer manage to astound its audience. It's for this reason that Melies' Star Films production company would go into bankruptcy in the next couple of years.
The highlights are the beating to death of Santa Claus and a bizarre moment in which Melies appears to produce a potted plant from his footman's derrière...
Griffith reins in his sentimental tendencies for this one, although the melodramatics are still there, and he even finds time to inject some moments of humour when Pickford performs a spot-on imitation of Sennett's moustache-twirling bad guy. It's clear to see why Sennett became a producer if this is typical of his acting skills. Having died after being thrown from a train (quite a good shot), he can clearly be seen breathing as if he's just run a half-marathon.
As others have noted, the cinematography is incredibly good for the period in which it was made, and while Griffith doesn't yet appear to have twigged to the idea of panning, he at least shows spatial awareness within the frame as well as the existence of space beyond its confines.
This is a typically melodramatic short from D. W. Griffith. By today's standards, the story is crude in both its concept and its execution, but even then Griffith was arguably one of America's foremost filmmakers. His style clearly wasn't fully developed yet, but the advances he'd made since his first directing effort in 1907 are impossible to miss.
Mary Pickford plays the grown daughter, and her star potential is obvious even at this early stage in her career.
Renny Harlin's direction is in-your-face flashy, replete with wandering shaky-cam shots, astonishing high-speed prangs that send wheels and stuff hurtling skywards, and two dozen cuts during any thirty-second conversation. He does manage to conjure up a couple of moments of tension, but the impression is that he's adopting all these razzle-dazzle techniques in a futile attempt to divert your attention from the dull plot and asinine script.
Ah yes, the script
If I wrote this review with the same care and skill as Stallone wrote the screenplay for Driven, it would read something like this: The script was bad. I did not like the script. I wish the script was better because I did not like the script. It made me sad. Why do they make scripts like this? It made me sleepy. Find yourself. A talented cast would have struggled to mine anything of worth from this rubbish but this lot are hardly A-list: A German star speaking his second language, a model turned actress, the aforementioned bland guy whose name I've chosen to forget. Burt Reynolds shows his commitment to bankruptcy by playing the hard-as-nails crippled manager of the racing team from behind the plastic mask that became his face sometime in the mid-1990s – but he at least gets to sit down throughout and has at least a functional acting technique.
Moses and his gang (crew? posse? homeys? blockies? I dunno – that's how un-hip I am) witness an alien crashing to earth and, after he's attacked by it, Moses gives chase and duly kills it. The trouble is that the particular alien he and his mates exterminated was an on-heat female and they're now covered in her spore which means the horny maliens keep tracking them down and, upon discovering they're not an accommodating femalien, get rather annoyed.
As the film progresses, Moses and his surviving mates develop a sense of community borne of a siege mentality which is presumably supposed to suggest that he has turned a corner and will no longer haunt deserted streets waiting for the weak and vulnerable to unwittingly step into his arena. It doesn't really wash, and neither do the reasons given for his being the way he is. At the end of the film Moses might be a local hero but there's little doubt that he'd be bagging himself a couple of free X-boxes in Tottenham a couple of months later.
Apart from some impressive aerial cinematography, this movie doesn't really have a lot going for it, and seems to be little more than a protracted advertisement for the work of the SAC. It's the kind of film Hollywood was churning out on a weekly basis – although usually with a smaller budget and less impressive cast. In fact it's difficult to see what an actor of Stewart's stature saw in such a formulaic script. It certainly can't have been the character of Dutch Holland, the pilot he plays, because he comes across as something of an inconsiderate egotist: not only does he endanger the life of his crew by ignoring a nagging injury in his shoulder that his CO has ordered him to have treated, but he also decides to indefinitely extend his length of service (which was initially only 21 months) into a lifelong commitment without bothering to consult the wife. It's no wonder she does one – and a small miracle that he doesn't emerge from telling her with at least some tender body parts.
Stewart doesn't really extend himself in the lead role – but then he was one of those stars who didn't have to. He could just play himself – long and gawky, with that distinctive voice – and his audience would be happy. June Allyson looks a little long in the tooth for the role of dutiful wife (and barely reaches Stewart's elbow), and so looks uncomfortable in a role that is so insipid it's fair to say nobody could have gotten much out of it.
Because there isn't a lot happening in the air – an early forced landing which forces Dutch and his radio man to camp out for the night, and then Dutch getting that achy shoulder – the film devotes much of its time to the Hollands' marital life – which is as about as dull to any onlooker as yours or mine.