The Big Swallow (1901)
Director: James Williamson
Cast: Sam Dalton
Synopsis: A man, objecting to being filmed, comes closer and closer to the camera lens until his mouth is all we see. Then he opens wide and swallows camera and cinematographer. He steps back, chews, and grins.
The Big Swallow is a fairly unique joke film that demonstrates the ingenuity of some of the early filmmakers. Georges Melies is the obvious example of primitive practitioners of the Seventh Art wringing incredible effects from the most basic of cinematic tools, but while this effort from British filmmaker James Williamson doesn’t use trick photography it does use a vivid imagination to deliver an unexpected punchline to an innovative little movie. Prior to The Big Swallow there were few – if any – examples of people walking directly towards the camera in the way the actor does here. The cinematographer manages to keep him in focus almost up until the moment his mouth devours the camera – and surely doesn’t deserve the fate that subsequently befalls him. Must have been a tasty little morsel, though, judging by the way his prey chews so enthusiastically.
(Reviewed 10th June 2009)