Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Bank Robbery (1908)

An early Western subject, directed by US Marshal William Tilghman, and produced by the Oklahoma Natural Mutoscene Company. Tilghman, convicted outlaw-turned-actor/filmmaker Al Jennings, and other frontier lawmen and gunfighters appear as themselves in this story of a gang of bank robbers who, following a hold-up, are pursued and finally captured by the law.

Fascinating for its sense of authenticity (both in the casting and locations) and naturalistic touches (such as a horse defecating on camera) that one would not see in later Hollywood westerns. There is also an interesting early use of the panning camera. It is quite unlike anything I've seen in other films of this period, and while the movement of the pan appears quite jerky and crude (with the cameraman often missing the mark of the subject), it is nonetheless quite surprising and effective the first time it is used, and an instance of astonishing technical experimentation in a film that is otherwise stylistically quite straightforward.

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