Seventy Years of Cinema
By Peter Cowie – 1969
Celluloid had been in existence since the 1860s. A French anatomist, Etienne-Jules Marey, developed the “fusil photographique,” an elongated, blunderbuss shaped antecedent of the movie camera of today. During the eighties, he also manufactured film strips.
Eadweard Muybridge, an Englishman resident in California, was fascinated by the movement at speed of animals and people, and he took thousands of closely linked photographs to analyze this. When projected in sequence, these obviously did (and still do) look like a stuttering motion picture film.
Between 1885 and 1887, Louis Aimi Augustin LePrince apparently projected moving pictures in a New York workshop, by means of a single-lens camera cum projector. A tablet in Leeds (England) commemorates him as making a camera and projector in 1888 and taking pictures in that year on Leeds Bridge. In October, 1889, Thomas Edison is said to have screened moving pictures in a New Jersey laboratory. Edison relied heavily on his assistant, William K. L. Dickson, and made no significant advances on his own.
But he was a skillful business man who knew how to exploit rights and patents. In August 1891 he was granted a patent for his perforated film camera, and in 1894 he patented his Kinetoscope, which employed celluloid for commercial purposes. Mention should also be made of Emile Reynaud, whose elaborate Praxinoscope attracted thousands of Parisians to the Musee Grivin during the nineties.
ORDERS TO KILL
Britain. Script: Paul Dehn, from an original story by Donald C. Downes. Direction: Anthony Asquith. Photographv: Desmond Dickinson. Editing: Gordon Hales. Music: Benjamin Frankel.
Art Direction: John Howell. Players: Paul Massie, Irene Worth, James Robertson-Justice. Eddie Albert, Lillian Gish, Leslie French. Production: Lynx Films (Anthony Havelock-Allan) . (111 mins.)
A war background and the problem of personal honor enter into Anthony Asquith’s masterpiece, Orders to Kill. The story concerns an ex-pilot (Paul Massie) who, sent to Paris in 1944 to kill a traitor, is mentally ruined by the ordeal. He turns to drink, and only regains his poise when he realizes that his is not such an individual guilt after all. “The two moral points that arise from the film,” says Asquith, “are that there is really no difference between dropping a bomb and killing an innocent man, and that you’re just as likely to kill an innocent person with a bomb as you are with vour hands.”
Orders to Kill is one of the most persuasive of British films. It is a thriller that contributes a portrait of its leading character as profound as M in Fritz Lang’s film or Johnny McQueen in Odd Man Out. Massie’s playing is excellent, veering from the youthful flippancy of his approach to training in England, to his impassioned remorse when he has killed his victim Laffitte. Irene Worth gives a bitter, gallant performance as the Resistance agent, and Eddie Albert is unexpectedly sensitive as the American commander. Asquith’s technical command, too often expended on whimsical and sentimental material in the past, brings to the film an enduring glitter and resolution. His compositions—the close-up of the bloodstained hand at the start, the terrifying illusions of “The Tunnel of Love” in which Massie has to kill dummy Nazis, the inspired shots of his hiding Laffitte’s money in the Montparnasse cemetery—are characteristic of the self-effacing talent first glimpsed in the twenties.