The “Mini-Spectacular” Chase


Wallace McCutcheon, Biograph, USA, 1904

With Grant’s Tomb in the background, the hero flees from the herd of would-be wives that he’s unleashed through a matrimonial ad in the personals column. Composed of 11 shots, the film is organized according to basic principles of editing, such as directional continuity: because the characters always run from the background toward the camera in the foreground, we’re sure that the spaces through which they move are contiguous. Every shot, however, amounts to what Tom Gunning calls “a mini-spectacle”: each successive shot introduces a new obstacle that requires the female pursuers to display themselves in some form of unladylike or otherwise mildly titillating posture.

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