Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison (1901) Poster

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Early "History" Film
Michael_Elliott20 June 2009
Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison (1901)

*** (out of 4)

President McKinley was assassinated in September, his killer Czolgosz was put in the electric chair in October and this movie was released in December. The movie shows the prison where the killer stayed for a month and then we get a recreation of events as he is led to the electric chair and killed. This is a pretty interesting short as it has to be one of the earliest examples of a historic movie. The events were just over a month old when this was released so the turn of events were very quick and one can't help but call this an exploitation movie as I'm sure Edison was wanting to make money off of people wanting to see this guy killed. Porter handles everything quite well and that includes the camera-work.
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Hitchcoc14 May 2019
UThis 1901 docudrama involves the execution of the man who killed President William McKinley. This is quite realistic and I'm sure some must have thought it was filmed at the actual time of the event. It gives us a bleak look at the prison where the execution took place.
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Edison actually made this as an advertisement!
AlsExGal4 February 2019
Leon Czolgolz was the man who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901. He was executed seven weeks later. Edison actually wanted to use this film to promote the electric chair, as he did not invent the device, but did finance it. The footage of Auburn Prison was taken the day of Czolgolz' execution, but in spite of his best efforts to shoot the real thing, Edison had to go with a dramatic recreation of the event. The actor in the chair simulates what does happen - the person to be executed will rise up out of his chair and come back down as the current goes through him. However, the real thing will be much more unpleasant and witnesses of the event would not be standing that close to the chair at the time of execution.

This film might bring back memories of the 1930's film "Picture Snatcher" in which James Cagney plays a reporter who gets an actual photo of a woman being executed in the electric chair, against all rules of the prisons at that time.
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Rearranging Space and Time
Cineanalyst1 February 2010
This is a rather elaborately constructed film for 1901, and it was the most ambitious film that Edwin S. Porter, with the collaboration of George S. Fleming and James H. White, had yet produced. After it, Porter would establish himself in the history books as one of early cinema's most important pioneers, with such story films as "Jack and the Beanstalk" (1902), "Life of an American Fireman" and "The Great Train Robbery" (both 1903). "Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison" requires of the viewer a bit of historical background. Czolgosz had assassinated US President William McKinley on 31 August 1901, for which he was executed by the electric chair on 29 October of the same year. These were big headline stories to Americans in 1901, so the filmmakers here were able to assume audiences' foreknowledge and forgo assembling an entirely self-contained narrative (which was good, because there were very few self-contained narrative films by then).

The docudrama contains four distinguishable shots: two panorama actuality shots of the outside of the real Auburn Prison where Czolgosz was executed—including a nice view of a train passing by in the first shot—which are followed by two reenactment scenes pretending to be inside that prison, but actually filmed in Edison's New York City studio, which Porter managed. It's through editing that the filmmakers imply a continuous relationship of space (between inside and outside shots) and time (as though they happened within the confined time of the real events) between the documentary footage and the staged scenes; it's the foundation of cinematic spatial-temporal representation, and Porter and others were still inventing it with films such as this one. There's a dissolve between the latter panorama shot and the first inside scene and another dissolve between the two studio shots, which was the common editorial practice for fictional subjects in early cinema since Georges Méliès did it in "Cinderella" (Cendrillon) (1899); whereas, there are direct "cuts", perhaps made in-camera, between the panorama shots, which was the general, straightforward tendency of actuality filming.

Another editorial oddity of early cinema is what Charles Musser and other historians have referred to as the "operational aesthetic", where there's an emphasis on showing every detail and beginning scenes at the beginning rather than the modern practice of cutting to shots with action in progress. Thus, in the first staged scene of this picture, a couple of the guards are seen standing still in the corner briefly before they all proceed forward. Additionally, at the beginning of the last shot, we get something of a temporal replay, as it takes a few seconds before the escorting guards and Czolgosz enter the frame. Their entrance also somewhat breaks the modern rule of the axis of action—of the direction of action across the screen, since we see them exit shot three to the right of frame and, then, see them enter shot four from the right of frame. Then, there's the exploitation of a dramatization of Czolgosz's death by electric chair; overall, a relatively convincing reenactment for 1901.

Exhibitors had the option of purchasing the complete film, or the panorama shots and staged scenes separately, as many exhibitors retained editorial control of films back then—a situation that films such as this one and the introduction of the story film were beginning to undermine, leading to the producers having the control nowadays.
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A good reenactment for 1901
Tornado_Sam6 June 2017
This print is featured as an unadvertised bonus to Kino's magnificent collection "The Movies Begin: A Treasury of Early Cinema" in the second volume, namely "The European Pioneers." The reason they call this an unadvertised bonus is because the print survives in a most blurred condition, thus it is below Kino's standard quality.

This three minute silent feature shows a staged execution of President McKinely's assassin, Leon Czolgosz (pronounced Zol-gOs). While not really a story of any sort, it does contain more than one scene and is hence somewhat ambitious for 1901. The footage opens up a panning shot of a train and then of Auburn Prison (made the day of the execution) before cutting to a blatantly fake prison set where several guards lead Czolgosz out of his cell and off screen. There is then a third cut to the final scene, where the assassin is strapped into the electric chair and the current is turned on. Czolgosz heaves his chest and falls limp.

Reportedly, Edwin Porter had already asked permission to shoot the actual execution, knowing it would make a big profit, but was denied. The only thing left to do, then, was to trick the audiences into thinking this cheap reenactment was the real thing. Still, the fact they took the panoramic footage the day of the execution shows they were still striving as much as possible to be real--and from what I've also read, footage of President McKinely's funeral train was also made. Presumably, the shot of the train at the beginning is the said footage.

(Note: I hope to review all the unadvertised bonuses. There are 10. This is the sixth).
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'Execution Of Czolgosz With Panorama Of Auburn Prison' (1901)
mfnmbvp3 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to rate a film on a scale of one to ten, when the film is only three minutes long, black and white, silent, but a historical reenactment of the execution of President McKinley's assassin. On a level of historical importance, this film probably deserves a ten, it is stunning to the viewer's eye in the opening moments when we get to see the outside of the actual prison. Fade to the indoors of the prison, we are treated with some slow-moving action in the form of guards bringing Leon Czolgosz to his death. I was under the impression that this film was of the actual execution when I first came across it, but a little reading lets us know it is a faithful reenactment. It comes off as how you would imagine a real execution would look like, but is really only truly notable because of the people involved (Thomas Edison and Edwin S. Porter) and the impact they would make on endless films of the future.

In that case, the film is truly revolutionary, it is only three to four minutes long depending on how many frames per second you're watching it at, so you can watch it without having to worry about it being a time-waster. Of course it isn't though, it's a fascinating spectacle on many different levels.

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Accurate Portrayal of an Historic Event
Lugosi3114 June 1999
Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley, who died in September in 1901. In turn, Czolgosz was electrocuted that October, and the film was made in December. It begins with the view of a train, continues to the exterior of the prison, and finally to outside the prisoner's cell. He is led away, we see his electrocution, and he is examined with a stethoscope by two witnesses. I recommend this film to all those interested in American history as it shows an interesting episode in it.
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