This is an interesting one hour documentary about Edwin S. Porter who provided a significant influence in the development of early cinema around the turn of the century before D.W. Griffith became America's most prominent film director. The documentary begins with Thomas Edison and his phonograph invention at the end of the 1800s, and shows us how moving pictures came onto the scene shortly thereafter, focussing on Edwin Porter's efforts in the early years of the 1900s. The story is told using excerpts from moving pictures and still photographs, many of them coloured in various ways which I found unusual and interesting. The narration is mainly by Blanche Sweet, a well-known actress of early cinema herself, and she speaks rather slowly which might take a little getting used to at first, but overall everything is clear and easy to understand. This documentary is obviously for those who are interested in the development of film-making, but also a treat for the history buff in general for its many old photographs and excerpts from film footage; news coverage, re-enactments and the first storytelling films alike.
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.