Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, XXVI edizione
Pordenone, 6-13 ottobre 2007

The Corrick Collection (1901-1914), part 1
Programme notes by Leslie Anne Lewis

[STREET SCENES IN PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA] (Leonard Corrick, Australia, 9 March 1907)
Regia/dir: Leonard Corrick; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #139).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
Following in the footsteps of itinerant exhibitors around the world, one of the first films the Corricks made after acquiring their motion picture camera consisted of actuality-style footage taken in the city in which they were currently performing – Perth, Western Australia. They placed a special notice in the Friday, 8 March 1907 edition of The West Australian announcing that the next morning they would be filming at St. George’s Terrace near the post office, and two different downtown intersections. The resulting film would be shown during their concert that night and every night during the coming week. On Saturday night, the Queen’s Hall was crowded with locals who came to see themselves onscreen alongside such sights as the Prince and Princess of Wales during their visit to Mandalay, views of Venice, Vesuvius, and Rome, and a selection of comedic and trick films, including La Fée aux fleurs and Dream of a Rarebit Fiend. While the length of the original film is unknown, what remains is a sequence of four shots featuring downtown Perth and its inhabitants.
Over the next month the family made two other films in the region:
The Day-Postle Race at Boulder Racecourse, W.A., documenting a series of races between Australian sprinting champion Arthur Postle and Irishman R.B. Day, and Bashful Mr. Brown, a chase-comedy starring the Corricks themselves, which they filmed in some of the same locations seen in Street Scenes in Perth. Bashful Mr. Brown features a clumsy young suitor embarrassing himself at tea, who is then chased through town by a crowd of children. According to Ina Bertrand, this film was likely the first dramatic narrative made in the state.

THE MAGICAL PRESS (Charles Urban Trading Co., GB 1907)
Regia/dir: Walter R. Booth; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #73).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
Much to the amazement of her male companion, a female magician conjures sights and objects inspired by the titles of British newspapers and magazines. The tricks start simply – The Times prompts her to summon up a clock, The Sphere, a globe of the world – then progress to become more and more elaborate. The Daily Express is unfolded to provide a screen for a film of a train rushing towards the camera – and as with the apocryphal Lumière audience, a male spectator falls out of his chair trying to get out of the way. The Tribune leads to the appearance of several babies, one of which grows so large it takes over the screen. The film ends on a patriotic note as The King and The Queen become portraits of the current British monarchs, Edward VII and Alexandra. A glimpse of Urban’s typical self-promotion can be seen briefly at the start of the film – a full-screen ad for the Charles Urban Trading Co. announcing their latest offerings, and ending with the tagline: “To amuse and entertain is good, to do both and instruct is better.”

CHASSE AU PAPILLON (Butterfly Catching) (Pathé, FR 1906)
Regia/dir: ?; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #9).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
A butterfly enthusiast is concerned only with catching his prey. He chases butterflies around the countryside, obliviously running into a woman sitting by a lake, a gardener, a fisherman, etc. – catching everything in his net except the brightly colored insects. While he doggedly pursues his quarry, his human victims go after him – finally catching him, pushing him into a lake, and, after he climbs out, hauling him off-screen to an unknown fate.
Sometimes advertised by the Corricks as
The Butterfly Hunter, the hand-painted butterflies are the only colour element in this otherwise black-and-white print. As such they seem even more fantastic, as if they belong to a world outside the film.
FIRE! (Williamson Kinematograph Co., GB 1901)
Regia/dir: James Williamson; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #49).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
The Corricks’ print of James Williamson’s well-known film depicting a rescue by the Hove fire department is of particularly good quality, and incorporates rich red tinting in two of the five scenes. This is the earliest surviving film in the Corrick Collection, and was possibly acquired soon after they began screening films in 1901. In addition to Fire!, two other Williamson films are part of the collection – Her First Cake (1906) and The Miner’s Daughter (1907).

LA POUDRE ANTINEURESTHÉNIQUE (The Anti-Irritability Powder) (Pathé, FR 1909)
Regia/dir: ?; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #12).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
On the suggestion of their housemaid, a woman secretly doses her husband with an “anti-irritability” powder. Its effect is more than they could have hoped for – he takes to the streets with a sense of manic frivolity, using a bellows to spray unsuspecting passers-by with the dust, prompting wild dancing and mirth. A pickpocket makes off with the bellows, but runs out of happy-powder at just the wrong moment, as he is caught by the long arm of the law. Particularly interesting is a sequence centring around the man’s visit to the Pathé studio. As the powder transforms a disgruntled director, the set used at the beginning of the film as the man’s dining room can be seen in the background, already being used in another production. While the hustle and bustle of activity behind the camera becomes part of the story, the on-screen “reality” is revealed to be only a thin-walled stage-set – an inversion that momentarily exposes the tenuous nature of the barrier separating the two worlds.

LA RUCHE MERVEILLEUSE (The Wonderful Bee-Hive) (Pathé, FR 1905)
Regia/dir: Gaston Velle; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #137).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
La Ruche merveilleuse is just one of the brilliantly stencil-coloured films in the Corrick Collection. A classic example of a féerie, it is a film of the fantastic, focusing on successive elements of spectacle held together only loosely by the plot. It begins as bees fly out of a hive and metamorphose into dancing women, the scenery behind them dissolving into a grotto. When their queen falls asleep, she is attacked by a giant spider. After the other “bees” rescue her, the dancing continues, their movements highlighted by successive colour changes. Féerie films such this were frequently noted in reviews and often mentioned by name in the troupe’s advertisements.

NAVAL ATTACK AT PORTSMOUTH (Charles Urban Trading Co., GB 1907)
Regia/dir: Charles Urban; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #76).
Didscalie in inglese/English intertitles.
Charles Urban’s Naval Attack at Portsmouth was one of the Corricks’ most heavily promoted films, featuring prominently in ads throughout their international tour. The film is part of a series documenting naval demonstrations performed during a 1907 visit of colonial dignitaries to Portsmouth. It captures a mock attack on the gunnery establishment at Whale Island and the valiant defence mounted by the British Navy. The other two films in the series, Premiers’ Reception on, and Inspection of, H.M.S. “Dreadnought” and Torpedo Attack on H.M.S. “Dreadnought”, are also part of the Corrick Collection.
Competition for the rights to film high-profile events such as this was fierce, and in the case of the Portsmouth demonstrations, even became a matter for the courts. An article in
The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly (23 May 1907), entitled “A ‘Land Attack’ at Portsmouth”, reported that Warwick Trading Co. manager W.G. Barker was charged with assaulting Urban as they passed each other in a Portsmouth hotel hallway, knocking him on the head with “enough force as to send his hat some distance along the passage”. This, Urban claimed, was the latest in a string of incidents perpetrated on himself and his reputation in recent months, including libel and physical threats. Mr. Barker was fined £20 and warned to remain on good behaviour for the next six months.
Described in Urban advertisements as “The Most Realistic Battle Picture Ever Secured”,
Naval Attack at Portsmouth features remarkably-staged battle scenes that claimed to utilize over 2,000 troops, dozens of ships, and a whole battalion of armaments. The description continues: “The spirit and dash of the men as they attack, capture and defend the trenches, the repulse of the attacking force and recapture of position after position, the handling of the mighty guns, the landing and placing in position of the 4.7 by 400 men, and the advance of the armoured trains which turn the tide of the battle, are nerve-thrilling, soul-stirring pictures that will never be forgotten.”

AN INDIAN’S GRATITUDE (La Gratitude du chef indien) (Pathé, US 1911)
Regia/dir: ?; cast: George Larkin, Lucille Younge; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #61).
Didscalie in inglese/English intertitles.
This Pathé-produced, stencil-coloured “Indian subject” was released under the associated American Kinema banner. The film reinforces the conflicted vision of Native Americans typical of the period, presenting them as alternately devious, warlike, helpless, thankful, noble, and disloyal. After spying two miners burying a cache of gold, Iron Horn returns home to warn his fellow tribesmen about the intruders on their land – however, he keeps the existence of the gold to himself. Soon after they capture the miners, the Indians must prevail upon their prisoners to use their medical knowledge to help heal the Chief’s ailing son. They are successful in curing the son, and so the Chief orders the men released, sending them off with armfuls of gifts. Knowing his chances to retrieve the gold are slipping away, Iron Horn hurries off ahead of the miners, only to meet misfortune and become “A Victim of His Greed”.
This is one of the first appearances by George Larkin in a Western-style film. He later went on to make a number of Western serials, including
The Trey O’Hearts (1914) and The Terror of the Range (1919), before starring alongside Josephine Hill in several two-reel Northwest Mountie pictures for Universal.

MONSIEUR QUI A MANGÉ DU TAUREAU (The Man-Bull Fight) (Gaumont, FR 1907)
Regia/dir: ?; 35mm, 356 ft., 6’ (16 fps); fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #72).
Didascalie in inglese / English intertitles.
At a dinner party, a hostess serves her guests a dish made using meat from a bull. While most of them enjoy the meal, one man has a strange reaction: taking a set of horns off the wall, he attaches them to his head and sets off on a rampage. After destroying the house and terrifying his hostess, her guests, maid, and neighbours, he takes to the streets. The police send a telegraph to Spain asking for help, and in response a parade of matadors arrive in Paris, ready to slay the crazy beast-man. However, soon after the “man-bull fight” begins, the errant guest comes to his senses and is taken into custody by waiting policemen. Giornate viewers may be familiar with this 1907 film thanks to its inclusion in a 1935 film by the same title. In this later film, Ukrainian filmmaker Eugene Deslaw, director of La Nuit électrique (1930) and La Marche des machines (1928), supplemented the original images with an introduction and mocking commentary voiced by the actor Bétove.
While the Corrick Collection print is incomplete, lacking both the initial scenes and final arrest, there is still much to recommend the film. Particularly impressive is the telegraph scene: rather than cutting away to an insert to relate the text of the message, the words spool across the screen by means of stop-motion animation, the letters on track-like strings streaming above the telegraph operator’s head. This shot makes Monsieur qui a mangé du taureau the only surviving Corrick film whose non-English-language origins are betrayed onscreen by the written word. While this and other films in the collection came with English titles supplied by their producers or distributors, there was no substituting for this quirky visualization of telegraphic technology.

Regia/dir: ?; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #133).
Didscalie in inglese/English intertitles.
Sometimes advertised by the Corricks as The Meddlesome Husband, When the Wife’s Away is also known as Hubby Tries to Keep House. All three titles, however, capture the essence of the story. Left on his own, a man foolishly involves himself in the day-to-day running of the household. Moving from one servant to the next, he proceeds to instruct each one on the “correct” way to shine boots, clean windows, or make pastries. As each task ends in disaster, he quickly finds out that his “superior” methods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

CRETINETTI LOTTATORE (Foolshead’s Wrestling) (Itala Film, IT 1909)
Regia/dir: ?; cast: André Deed; 35mm; fonte copia/print source: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #50).
Senza didascalie/No intertitles.
André Deed’s Cretinetti (Foolshead) character is a familiar favourite to the Giornate audience. Thought lost, Cretinetti lottatore was filmed soon after Giovanni Pastrone, then Itala Film’s artistic director, hired Deed away from Pathé. Even in this early appearance of the character, the wild antics and resulting mayhem typical of later Cretinetti films is already evident. In this instalment, after an encounter with a strongman, Cretinetti takes to the town to exercise his newfound skills – much to the detriment of the local citizens.
This is one of two original release prints of Cretinetti films in the Corrick Collection – the other being
Come Cretinetti paga i debiti (How Foolshead Pays His Debts) – most likely brought back to Australia after the family’s 1907-1909 international tour.