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Biter Bit, The (1900)


Main image of Biter Bit, The (1900)
35mm, black and white, silent, 70 feet
Production CompanyBamforth Company

A boy plays a practical joke on a gardener by grasping his hose to stop the water flow. The gardener looks down the hose to see if there's a blockage, the boy lets go, and...

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One of the first films made by French pioneers Louis and Auguste Lumière was The Sprinkler Sprinkled (L'Arroseur arrosé, France, 1895), a one-minute short about a practical joke played on a gardener that may well be the first silent slapstick comedy.

It was popular (and simple) enough to be remade several times over the next few years - the Lumières themselves shot at least one more version - and The Biter Bit is an English remake by the Bamforth company, providing a good illustration of how early film production companies cheerfully plagiarised each other's work.

There are a few minor differences between the Bamforth and Lumière films, most notably a rather greater sense of space and depth in the Bamforth version. There are three distinct planes to the action: the tree in the foreground, the gardener in the middle and an amused onlooker in the background. The tree also comes into play when the gardener seeks his revenge, as he chases the joker round it before giving him a taste of his own medicine.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers'. It is also featured in full as part of 'How They Laughed', Paul Merton's interactive guide to early British silent comedy. Note that this material is not limited to users in registered UK libraries and educational establishments: it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:09)
Drat That Boy! (1904)
Bamforth and Co.