Explosion of a Motor Car (1900)
Director: Cecil Hepworth
Cast: Cecil M. Hepworth, Henry Lawley
Explosion of a Motor Car is a macabre little film which succeeds when it shouldn’t because of its bizarre subject matter. As a piece of film-making it’s not too clever – even for 1900. Director Hepworth doesn’t really understand how to focus the audience’s attention on the important part of the screen, a fact demonstrated by his use of extras in the opening moments. One walks across screen, another walks down the path, and our eyes are initially drawn to them instead of the approaching motor car. It may add some realism to the scene – which the exploding automobile will soon shatter – but it definitely distracts the viewer.
The explosion is well-enough handled for the time, and the falling body parts raining down on a hapless bobby definitely elevate the film into a new and unexpectedly gory stratosphere. It’s difficult to imagine how audiences of the time must have reacted – and goes to show that shock tactics have been in use since the infancy of movies. Unfortunately, Hepworth still had film in the camera and leaves it running for us to watch a dull finale of the policeman taking an inventory of the suspiciously light body parts.
(Reviewed 10th June 2009)