Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fire! - 1901

American movie. Firefighters ring for help, and here comes the ladder cart; they hitch a horse to it. A second horse-drawn truck joins the first, and they head down the street to a house fire. Inside a man sleeps, he awakes amidst flames and throws himself back on the bed. In comes a firefighter, hosing down the blaze. He carries out the victim, down a ladder to safety. Other firefighters enter the house to save belongings, and out comes one with a baby. The saved man rejoices, but it's not over yet. Another resident appears upstairs. He jumps.
This is quite an ambitious film for 1901, and it's clear that a lot of thought and attention to detail has gone into its' making. It's very similar - for obvious reasons - to Edwin S. Porter's Life of an American Fireman, but was actually made two years earlier. Strange then that Porter's opus receives such attention from film historians while James Williamson's more impressive and exciting (for my money) effort seems to be held in much less regard.
Some of the scenes of the fire are particularly impressive and excitingly staged - especially the sequence when the fireman hacks his way into the victim's bedroom which is clearly genuinely ablaze (well, the curtains, anyway). It has to be said, though, that the film plays its strongest hand too early as nothing that follows matches the power of this scene. Definitely worth a look though...

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