Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wreck of the Battleship "Maine" (1898)

Another subject I came across in my research on Spanish-American War films. This film was photographed by cameramen from the Edison company, showing the wreckage of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor following its explosion on February 15, 1898 which resulted in the deaths of 266 crewmen. The cause of the explosion remains unknown, but the incident became central to the efforts of "Yellow journalists" to drum up American support in favor of war with Spain.

Following the incident, French filmmaker Georges Méliès made a subject depicting the recovery of bodies from the wreckage, which presents an interesting contrast with Edison's authentic footage. Méliès' film employs a re-creation of the scene with actors in front of painted sets and special effects to simulate underwater photography, in order to give audiences an interpretation of the events that they could not see in the actualité subjects of the time.

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