Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Docudramas

The Dreyfus Affair (1899)

Dreyfus NewsIn a series of short movies, Georges Méliès depicted one of the major political events in French history while it was still ongoing, a scandal involving a Jewish man framed for espionage. This unusual set of films broke many conventions of film at the time, but set the stage for new developments and suggested ways in which cinema could be used artistically in the future.

Dreyfus AffairOf the original eleven films shot for this series, nine still exist. In the first, “Dreyfus Court Martial – The Arrest of Dreyfus,” we see various French officers crowded around a desk. Finally, one sits and signs a piece of paper, copying out what is dictated to him by another. The dictating man becomes agitated, and offers the other (Dreyfus) a gun, to kill himself if he is guilty, but Dreyfus refuses. The other men in the room lead him out. Read the rest of this entry »

Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaw (1915) (Fragment)

Passing of Oklahoma Outlaw

This movie is not available to view in its entirety, but thanks to the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Foundation, several of the most exciting minutes are available to view. The version I saw had a good-but-somewhat distracting score, obviously influenced by Ennio Morricone, tacked on. The movie is the product of real-life Marshall Bill Tilghman, who reportedly stopped shooting at one point to chase real-life outlaws after a bank robbery near the film shoot. He was concerned about the way Westerns were depicting outlaws as heroes and lawmen as fools, so made this movie to tell the story from his own side, using other lawmen, and even one of the criminals he had arrested, as actors in the piece. As an added bonus, he toured with the film, providing narration for audiences eager to hear firsthand accounts of the Wild West from a genuine gunfighter. What we have to see today is a bit less thrilling, the filming is pretty static and unimaginative, although the action is well-staged. I get the impression that most of the producer would have been more adept at making a live Wild West Show than a movie. Fans of Jim Jarmusch will be amused to know that the outlaw identified as “Tulsa Jack” was born William Blake – could this have been an inspiration for “Dead Man” (1995)?

Director: Bill Tilghman

Camera: James Bennie Kent

Starring: Bill Tilghman, E.D. Nix, Chris Madsen, Roy Daugherty

Run Time: 13 Min (orig, 6 reels – up to 90 Min?)

You can watch part of it for free: here. If you can find a more complete version, please tell us in the comments.

Ammunition Smuggling on the Mexican Border (1914)

Ammunition Smuggling

This can be called an early attempt at making a “docudrama,” and it may be one of the most authentic of those ever filmed, because many of the actors are re-creating their own actions on the screen. The movie depicts the failed attempt of a Texas posse to apprehend smugglers taking arms across the border for the Mexican Revolution, and the subsequent captivity of two of the members of said posse, the death of one of the hostages and the eventual liberation of the other and the capture of the criminals. The movie was produced by that surviving posse member, former sheriff Eugene T. Buck, and of course is told entirely from his point of view, with no attempt at a balanced or fair perspective on the revolutionaries he fought against. Those revolutionaries were anarchists and comrades of Emiliano Zapata, and got the support of American radicals like Emma Goldman after their capture, while Buck’s testimony was called into serious question on the stand. The film was shot only weeks after that testimony. As interesting as this history makes the movie, I found the unimaginative cinematography (almost every shot is a static crowd shot, with individual characters hard to distinguish) and the poor quality of the print made it hard to maintain an interest.

Director: Eugene T. Buck

Cast: Eugene T. Buck

Run Time: 41 Min

I have not been able to find this for free online. If you know where it can be seen, please inform us in the comments.