Jack and the Beanstalk (1902)
By 1902, it’s surprising how far film has come in terms of storytelling. This is the year that Méliès came out with “A Trip to the Moon” and also the year that Edwin S. Porter made this comparable fantasy. When I say “comparable,” I don’t really mean that this is a brilliant classic on quite the same level – somehow Méliès’s movie is the more charming and fresh, viewed so many years later. But it is similarly ambitious, and obviously responding to similar audience demands. Both are child-oriented fantasies, incorporating many camera and stage effects to create “magical” or fanciful situations. Both involve multiple scenes and set-ups, and the use of sophisticated editing structures to make sense of the story. Both involve journeys to far-off places, although they begin in more ordinary settings. And both draw from older literature for their source material: Verne in the case of Méliès, the Brothers Grimm in Porter’s. I’ve admitted to finding “A Trip to the Moon” a better movie than “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and I do think that Porter was stronger in dealing with realistic subjects, as he did the following year with “The Great Train Robbery.” Nevertheless, this is worth checking out as a demonstration that American cinema was giving the French a run for their money, and in their own type of subject-matter, very early in the history of movies.
Director: Edwin S. Porter
Run Time: 10 Min
You can watch it for free: here.