30 Days, 30 Classics – Day 12: Rescued By Rover (1905) featuring the first dog star
Posted on October 14, 2012
A simple nostalgic family film for a relaxing Sunday evening, Rescued By Rover is an early silent movie from British film maker Cecil M. Hepworth’s film company that features the first dog star. When a baby is kidnapped, Rover makes it his mission to save the day.
One of Hepworth’s first blockbusters and Britain’s first major fictional film, Rescued By Rover shows early editing techniques with multiple scenes and one of the first uses of artificial light. Rescued By Rover is also an early example of the use of real actors in British film who were paid for their parts. Its simple storyline might seem dated now – more recently echoed by Lassie – but Rescued By Rover started a trend in kidnapping story-lines. The film was so popular that the Hepworth Manufacturing Company had to remake the film twice when the negatives wore out.
I love the melodrama in this silent film. The way Hepworth builds tension by showing us the same journey three times before the plot is resolved is genius. It might seem repetitive to modern audiences – today these journeys would be edited much tighter – but achieves great suspense. The BFI describes Lewin Fitzhamon’s direction of the film, ‘Fitzhamon also structured, framed and occasionally panned his shots to emphasise movement, creating a sense of pace and excitement that was unprecedented for the time’.
It’s fascinating to see London’s early twentieth century streets – lacking pavements and proper road surfaces – preserved forever on this black and white film. Rescued By Rover also gives us an insight into social and racial issues at the time, contrasting the poor and affluent neighbourhoods and casting gypsies as the enemies – as beggars, thieves and drinkers – a common theme in early cinema.
Rescued By Rover is heartwarming, funny and nostalgic. Dog lovers marvel at how well Blair (Rover) is trained… this dog is genius. Watch the full six minute film below.