The Great Train Robbery (1903) – Edwin Porter

So, as mentioned before, there is a new list of movies for me to work through, well two lists, but this is the introductory post to the 101 Actions Movies to See Before You Die. I’m gonna enjoy this list a lot, cause who doesn’t love a good action movie? It will probably see me revisiting a lot of my fave films as well! However, the further I get into this list, and the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list, and the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film list, I don’t doubt there will be some cross-over, so for those counting along at home, don’t be surprised if the numbers don’t add up all the way. Believe me though, I am watching each and every film, and am loving these lists!

The very first action film on the list is a short 11 minute western-heist film. Told with no dialogue or title cards, this silent one-reeler tells the tale of a band of outlaws who break into a train office, and after gaining the information they need, hide out along the line, and await their chance to stop a train, and rob all of its passengers of their goodies.

The film intercuts the story of the bandits, with that of the railway clerk, who they’ve left tied up, as well as the posse running the thieves down. This idea was a first at the time, and showed that a film could intercut between different locations and weave a tale together.

great-train-robbery-1903-grangerFrom a technical stand point, it was also one of the first films to pan with the action, following the bandits as they make their way across a stream, then mount up on their steeds and race off to their camp.

Whereas now, most viewers might be put out by some of the slow pacing, especially the wait for the train, some of the action makes up for it. When the train initially stops, the bandits surprise the engineers, and one of them gets the tar beaten out of them, there’s a brief cut where the engineer is replaced by a dummy, and that dummy gets its head caved in, and then tossed over the side of the coal car. Rather violent!

The final showdown, which breaks up a rowdy dance amongst the goodies and their lady friends, is over in moments, amidst clouds of gunsmoke, showing good triumphing over evil, but the final frames sees one of the bandits staring down the camera at the viewers as he draws his six-shooter and fires right at the audience. I’m sure that may have frightened a couple of folks back in the day.

It’s a quick, easy watch, and is also a lot of fun. I know I’m going to enjoy this list!

Have a look at the action film that started it all…

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