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Kiss in the Tunnel, The (Smith) (1899)


Main image of Kiss in the Tunnel, The (Smith) (1899)
35mm, black and white, silent, 75 feet
Production CompanyG.A. Smith

A couple enjoy a brief moment of illicit passion as their train enters a tunnel.

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The Kiss in the Tunnel, at least in the version included here, is a three-shot film made to exploit a then-current popular trend of showing moving shots taken from the front of a train. The first and final shots show the train driver's point of view as the train enters a tunnel and as it emerges at the other side.

Up to then, exhibitors had managed to get away with only showing shots of this type, but two years after their debut (generally reckoned to be the 1897 American Mutoscope Company production The Haverstraw Tunnel), G.A. Smith felt that some extra spice was called for, and devised a shot showing a brief, almost furtive moment of passion between two passengers, taking advantage of the brief onset of darkness.

For obvious reasons, the lighting here is totally unrealistic - we can see everything that's going on in much the same way that audiences of Peter Shaffer's stage play Black Comedy (1967) could see everything that the characters presumably couldn't.

Similarly, no attempt has been made at realism in the setting - the "carriage" is very obviously a painted flat that has been decorated with various props: luggage, parasols and so on, though the camera has been made to sway from side to side to create the illusion of movement.

The Warwick Trading Company catalogue offered exhibitors just this middle shot - they were advised to splice it into train footage that they almost certainly would own from previous programmes (the version on Screenonline gives an example of how it would have been shown).

The same year, Bamforth and Company remade the film, including shots of the train, and adopted a rather less stylised and noticeably more passionate approach to the brief encounter of the title.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:20)
Production stills
Amorous Guardsman, The (1898)
Kiss in the Tunnel, The (Bamforth) (1899)
Smith, G.A. (1864-1959)
Phantom Rides