Before The Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema Of Edwin S Porter  [DVD]
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Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (1902)
Waiting at the Church (1906)
Life of a Cowboy (1906)
There are a total of 16 Porter films on the DVD including The May Irwin Kiss (1896), The Sunken Battleship `Maine' (1898), Jack and the Beanstalk (1902) and Life of an American Fireman (1902). Obviously there is going to be some overlap with this DVD and the more expensive and expansive DVD set, Edison - The Invention of the Movies (1891-1918). However, for the low price of this set it might be worth it.
Some highlights of this documentary for me were the explanations about how editing began, what Porter did, who influenced him to do so, and how the public responded. It was also interesting to learn how quickly a 30-minute film became so popular that it began to be mass-produced within a few years - which Porter resisted for some reason and sadly he was left behind when editing, film continuity and storytelling really began to progress from around 1908 onwards, and D.W. Griffith stepped into the limelight. Overall, a nice documentary that serves as a good introduction and overview of the first steps of cinema, with at least two complete Porter productions ("Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Life of an American Fireman")from 1902-1903, and excerpts from several others. This tape would nicely complement the DVD box set "The Movies Begin" which I'd also recommend for anyone interested in history and the development of film-making.
We learn so much about Foster and the development of early cinema and storytelling on film; and that's a very real plus even if it isn't always directly related to Edwin Porter. We see how Edison developed his motion picture camera at about the same time as a few other inventors were working on the same invention; and it's interesting to see how Porter used his skills especially in the years 1900 to 1904 or so to tell stories that were never before presented with such visual clarity to masses of people. Specifically, Porter tackled issues to allow film to tell a story. Porter worked hard to make short motion pictures with more than one scene; and he struggled greatly with the challenge of portraying two events that happened simultaneously. He was also one of America's first motion picture directors, even working on the classic short entitled "The Great Train Robbery" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" which required several scenes to tell the story; all of his techniques were quite new at the time and Porter mastered them during his heyday in the years 1900-1909.
Of course, there's much more to Porter's story than that. I don't want to spoil it for you so I'll leave the rest out!
The DVD comes with three short films: "Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show;" "Waiting at the Church" and "The Life of a Cowboy."
Overall, if you want to take a look at Edwin Porter's contributions to the making and marketing of short motion pictures before the advent of the nickelodeon, this documentary is a good one. Unfortunately, it tries a bit too hard to be comprehensive and occasionally gets a little too sidetracked along the way; but it still tells a great story. I recommend this for classic film buffs and anyone else interested in how the motion picture was initially developed.
Musser has a book that I wanted - got this instead, no regrets,