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The Privateer’s Treasure (Gaumont)

March 18, 2011

Today’s film, The Privateer’s Treasure, was not very well received by the staff at the Moving Picture News. And it doesn’t really sound like a very interesting film. But even bad films have good historical value. In this case, discussion about the film in the Moving Picture News gives us some insight into how reviewers and other influential viewers helped determine the formal and stylistic qualities that popular American cinema would take, i.e. a naturalistic style, organized through continuity editing.

Jeanval, who wrote a regular column for the Moving Picture News called “Watching the Pictures” complained about the film’s continuity errors:

I am amazed that a firm like Gaumont should have ever allowed such gross blunders to pass as occur in “The Privateer’s Treasure.” I am, as I have often said, a profound admirer of Gaumont, but of late such stupidities have appeared that no man of ordinary intelligence can pass them. Here we have these things. A man goes to look for things in the dark with an unlighted lantern, the ship, that only appears in part, which crosses the Atlantic is only according to her stern and ratlines, a sloop; she is supposed to sail when her mainsail is flapping and once when all sails are raised! What are you giving us Gaumont? Do you think we are in Salpetriere?”

– Jeanval. “Watching the Pictures” MOVING PICTURE NEWS 4, No. 12 (25 March 1911): 8.

And a reviewer for the same publication had a similar assessment:

The synopsis says the two are brother and sister; the acting on the film says “hum!” Anyway, the two are in poverty–they don’t look it — when a mysterious messenger informs them of a treasure hidden. This, through storm and trial, they get. The photography is splendid, the backgrounds beautiful, but as to detail the stage director ought to be ashamed of himself.

Walton. “Seen on the Curtain” MOVING PICTURE NEWS 4, No. 12 (25 March 1911): 13.

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