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£100 Reward (1908)


Main image of £100 Reward (1908)
35mm, black and white, silent, 394 feet
DirectorJames Williamson
Production CompanyWilliamson Kinematograph Company

Two burglars are foiled when their loot is discovered by a faithful dog.

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The huge success of Cecil Hepworth and Lewin Fitzhamon's groundbreaking 'animal rescue' drama Rescued by Rover (1905) prompted numerous imitations, not least from Hepworth's own company, which released two apiece in 1906 and 1907 and eight in 1908. Inevitably, rival companies made their own versions, and historian Martin Sopocy has identified three such examples made by James Williamson's company: Getting Rid of His Dog (1907), £100 Reward and My Wife's Dog (both 1908), of which the middle title seems to be the only survivor. Indeed, it also appears to be the last surviving film that was directed by Williamson himself, though he would continue to direct for another year and his company would remain in the film business until 1910.

£100 Reward was released in April 1908, and its twelve-scene narrative is elaborate both by the standards of Williamson's other surviving films and in comparison with anything else made at the time. Although it is not a noticeable advance on Rescued By Rover in terms of technique, it nonetheless is an excellent showcase for Williamson's directorial skills, as it tells a surprisingly involved but nonetheless logically constructed and completely comprehensible narrative without requiring a single intertitle other than the printed sign offering the title inducement (a substantial sum of money for 1908), which occurs onscreen as a natural part of the drama. Each scene is staged for maximum clarity: the bare cupboard revealing the young family's poverty; the butler's sling betraying the extent of his injuries during the earlier chase, and so on.

It also offers a wealth of crowd-pleasing scenes, including a chase and a fight, plenty of suspense, and an ingratiating dog well to the fore of at least two-thirds of the scenes, including a brief subplot in which the young man tries to sell him to a passer-by. Going from its plot synopsis, this may be a conscious echo of Getting Rid Of His Dog, although with underlying pathos that was almost certainly not present in the earlier film. Although it could hardly be called especially 'realistic' (by comparison with 1902's heartbreaking A Reservist, Before the War and After the War , it's pure wish-fulfilment fantasy), the film does nonetheless show that Williamson's perennial concern for the plight of the poor remained a key theme even towards the end of his career.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
Complete film (6:34)
Dog Outwits the Kidnappers, The (1908)
Rescued by Rover (1905)
Williamson, James (1855-1933)
A Year in Film: 1908