Scrooge; or Marley’s Ghost (1901)
Director: Walter R. Booth
Robert Paul is a largely forgotten name today, but he was a major pioneer of British cinema, and was quick to grasp the commercial potential of cinema in ways that better known pioneers such as William Friese-Greene were not. He was more of a mechanic than a filmmaker making, with Birt Acres, his own camera on which to shoot films in 1895, and also Britain’s first projector, the Animatograph, with which to screen them in 1896. Early in the 20th century he had a custom-made studio built in Muswell Hill.
It’s quite surprising how this five minute adaptation of Charles Dicken’s perennial Christmas tale manages to remain faithful to the book. You get the impression — not just because of the long running time (for 1901) — that this was something of a prestige production from Paul thanks to the quite elaborate painted sets; it’s just a shame that the final scene is missing — and that the guy playing Scrooge felt it necessary to overact so badly. Film features possibly the first ever use of an upward wipe for a scene change.
(Reviewed 7th December 2012)