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How It Feels to Be Run Over (1900)

Not Rated | | Short, Comedy | July 1900 (UK)
In one glorious point-of-view shot, a vehicle dashes full-speed into an ill-starred passer-by.


Cecil M. Hepworth




Credited cast:
May Clark ... Passenger
Cecil M. Hepworth ... Driver


On a seemingly safe and dusty rural road frequented by horses and their carriages, a two-seated automobile is moving erratically. And then unexpectedly, in one glorious point-of-view shot, the vehicle dashes full-speed into an ill-starred passer-by, as the film ends with a rather enigmatic punchline: "Oh, mother will be pleased." Without a doubt, the man saw stars. Written by Nick Riganas

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Short | Comedy


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


How It Feels To Be Run Over is based on a very simple premise: a car is driven directly at the camera so that it eventually fills the screen, creating the visual impression suggested by the title. See more »


Featured in Silent Britain (2006) See more »

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Self-Reflexivity in Early Cinema, Part I
29 December 2007 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

I think self-reflexive films, or self-referential films, meta-film, or whatever you want to call them, offer some of the most interesting experiences available in the art form--giving insight into the complexities of their very nature. Three of the earliest films to explore this territory bare some striking similarities, but the filmmakers strike upon very different ways and techniques for their self-reference. In addition to this film, "How It Feels to Be Run Over", I'm also discussing "The Big Swallow" and "The Countryman and the Cinematograph". These motion pictures are, of course, similar in that they all are about the process of themselves, whether it be film-making or the cinema viewing experience. They are also very old, short and, perhaps, somewhat deficient to the expectations of some modern viewers. They were all intended as comedies. Additionally, the British made them all. They were made independently of each other by three of the major producers in England at the time--three of the most historically important founders of film language, really. They are Cecil Hepworth, who produced "How It Feels to Be Run Over", Robert W. Paul and James Williamson (only George Albert Smith is missing here). During this period, it was the nation leading the world in filmic innovation.

There are earlier examples in film history of self-reflexivity if you look deep enough (which I've attempted), such as some Lumière and Edison films. In one Lumière short, for example, the cameraman records another cameraman filming a subject--making the filming of the subject the subject (see "Fête de Paris 1899: Concours d'automobiles fleuries"). In another, Louis Lumière, who was primarily involved in still photography throughout his life, poses for a picture. In an early Kinetograph experiment at the Edison Company, entitled "A Hand Shake" (1892), William K.L. Dickson comes from behind the camera and enters the frame to shake hands with assistant William Heise--basically congratulating themselves on film over the invention of film.

Another previous motion picture, produced by the American Mutoscope Company, is rather similar to this film in particular. It was planned as an actuality film of the reaction of a fire department. Yet, in this onrush, one of the engines was forced to crash into the Biograph camera and film crew. The film, which survived, was released as "Atlantic City Fire Department" (1897). "How It Feels to Be Run Over" is, however, a staged fiction film, which perhaps was inspired by the Mutoscope production.

In it, a horse carriage avoids the camera safely by moving to the right side of the road. Then, a wild automobile motorist driving down the right lane (which, of course, would be incorrect in England) smashes into the camera. The screen goes black and a quick flash of question marks and exclamation marks are followed by the words "Oh! Mother will be pleased", which appear on individual frames. That's it.

Here, there are two aspects interesting from a historical standpoint aside from making noticed the camera within the film that is filming that very film. First, it's one of the first films to feature intertitles. They're not the kind of title cards one is accustomed to viewing in later silent films, though. They're quickly gone, appear on separate frames and in non-fancy white letters against black background. The words may have been written on the negative themselves; otherwise, they may have been filmed against some black background, and then edited in stop-motion fashion. The only filmmaker to experiment with title cards before this film that I know of was George Albert Smith, who introduced his 1898 film Santa Claus with the title of the film. In 1900, he also included an intertitle ("Reversed") during "The House that Jack Built". In those days, exhibitors would tell audiences the titles of films as well as describe their action, or they would use title cards in the magic lantern fashion. But, Hepworth, Smith, in France, Ferdinand Zecca and, in the US, Edwin S. Porter, among others, would assume more narrative responsibility for the producers with the introduction of title cards.

Second, Hepworth probably started the common thread in early films of parodying the dangers of the newfangled horseless carriage. In another film from 1900, "Explosion of a Motor Car", he took the trick film, which was invented inside a studio by Georges Méliès, outdoors. Apparently, Hepworth was actually an automobile enthusiast, which demonstrates these films were meant to be facetious. In the end, however, it's not so much the car in "How It Feels to Be Run Over" that disrupts, but rather it is the filmmaker, who fiendishly takes a position on the road, and the camera, which by assuming our point-of-view runs us over.

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None | English

Release Date:

July 1900 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Milyen érzés, ha elgázolják az embert See more »

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Hepworth See more »
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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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