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Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903)

British Film Institute

Main image of Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903)
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works

A man is run over by a horse and cab, but despite apparently being trampled underfoot, he recovers enough to chase the driver responsible.

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Compared with the elaborate special effects fantasies that director W.R. Booth and producer R.W. Paul had already concocted - The Haunted Curiosity Shop and The Magic Sword (both 1901) being good examples - Extraordinary Cab Accident seems something of a step back.

It achieves its main effect of a man being knocked down by a horse-drawn cab through two strategic jump cuts enabling a dummy to be substituted at the point where things get nasty - a technique that had been around since 1896, when pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès (who, like Booth, started out as a stage magician) found that his camera had jammed while shooting a street scene. He developed the footage anyway, and was amazed to see a carriage apparently transforming into a hearse - and was astute enough to realise the potential of this discovery.

But in the case of Extraordinary Cab Accident, more complex special effects might well have worked against the impression Booth and Paul were clearly seeking to create, which is that of a man being genuinely run over by a horse-drawn cab, his body being knocked down and trampled by the horse's hooves.

As with the previous year's similarly-titled The Extraordinary Waiter (in which a waiter is comprehensively mistreated by an irate diner), the unpleasantly voyeuristic concept is (slightly) alleviated by the fact that the pedestrian is seemingly unscathed by what under normal circumstances would be very severe injuries. However, it is also arguable that in downplaying these, the film runs the risk of being accused of trivialising violence and cruelty, a debate that would continue to rage for the next hundred years and which has shown no sign of abating.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilations 'Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers' and 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (0:42)
Production still
'?' Motorist, The (1906)
Booth, W.R. (1869-1938)
Paul, R.W. (1869-1943)
Paul's Animatograph Works: Trick Films