Saturday, 21 February 2015

1900: Explosion of a Motor Car

Explosion of a Motor Car

Ok, it would be a shame to give up on this without at least making it into the 20th century, so here's a fun little film from Walton on Thames's own Cecil Hepworth, soon to become one of Britain's most famous and prolific film makers.
Motor cars were just as new and as much a curiosity as moving pictures in 1900, and must have seemed a little ridiculous to some - a rich people's plaything, less practical than a horse, more dangerous and much more expensive - so when a car full of bright young things comes chugging down the road, its occupants cheerfully waving their hankies as working men go about their business, it must have raised a huge laugh in the cinema when the car explodes, blowing its occupants sky-high.
A passing policeman witnesses the incident and calmly notes it all down as body parts land around him.
The trick photography is simple but effective - just a few frames after a puff of smoke is released from the car, the camera is stopped and the car substituted for a pile of wreckage.
The playful tone of the film is again interesting - on one level it's a simple sight gag but one wonders if Hepworth was playing to his audience, and counting on a good response from punters of limited means, many of whom would have been hard-working servants to exactly the sort of people who get their come-uppance here.