Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Perils of Pauline (1914)


Directed by: Louis J. Gasnier & Donald MacKenzie

Starring: Pearl White

This early silent serial originated many of the familiar clichés of the later era – including the young woman who is frequently tied up and rescued, the heroic yet oblivious young man who allows her to get into perilous situations in the first place, and the diabolical masked villain who is actually close to the protagonist in ordinary life. Oh, and cliff-hangers. Lots of cliff-hangers. Pauline (portrayed by Pearl White, who had already done a series of “Pearl” movies and would later star in “The Exploits of Elaine”) is a young heiress, betrothed to the son of her former guardian, who wants a “life of adventure” before she settles down. Her hero is the hapless Harry (Crane Wilbur, who later wrote horror classics like “The Bat” and “House of Wax”), who never manages to be around when she gets into trouble, but always has to arrive in the nick of time to get her out of it. The villain is the heavy-set Paul Panzer (whose career went on for decades, allowing him to appear in the 1947 remake, as well as “Mildred Pierce” and “Casablanca” in small roles), who is Harry’s father’s executor, and who hopes to pay off his gambling debts with Pauline’s inheritance, which reverts to him if she should die by some “misfortune” previous to her wedding day. Perils from which Pauline is either rescued from or rescues herself include a burning house, a runaway balloon, a blocked-in cave, a band of savage Indians, a ticking bomb, drowning at sea, drowning in a cellar, a sabotaged biplane, a sabotaged submarine, a poisonous snake, and various gangs of ruffians (especially gypsies).

Run Time: Reputed to have been 20 episodes originally, today only 9 exist.

You can watch some episodes of this for free: here, here, and here.

The Lumiere Brothers’ First Films

Worldcat link: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/41419014

This disc is a compilation of the very first “movies” made by the inventors of the first effective motion picture camera/projector system. Each is more or less precisely fifty seconds long and consists of a single subject. Some of them you’ve heard of – “A Train Coming into the Station,” for example, or “Workers Leaving the Factory.” Many of them are more obscure. A surprising number were taken in exotic locations around the world, including New York, Berlin, Jerusalem, Constantinople (now Istanbul) and Indochina (now Vietnam). Many of them are documentaries, in the sense of being totally unstaged, but many are at least partly arranged by the cameraman, and there are a number of comedic bits, including a famous one in which a man is sprayed by a hose after a boy stands on it for a few seconds. The DVD includes narration by Bertrand Tavernier, which sometimes adds to the movies, but just as often is distracting. Worth watching at least once with the piano score only.