Filmsite Movie Review
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Pages: (1) (2)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Scene 8: The engine is brought to a stop and the bandits flee:

Farther along on the tracks, several miles from the scene of the hold up, the four robbers force the engineer to stop the locomotive. They jump from the train and escape down the side of the hill next to the tracks (the camera pans after them).

Scene 9: Their escape on horseback:

The bandits run through a beautiful valley, approaching closer into view. They cross a narrow stream. In a unique, lengthy pan shot, the camera slowly pans to the left where they mount their tethered, waiting horses in a nearby wood, and ride off toward the wilderness.

Scene 10: The interior of the telegraph office:

Back at the RR telegraph office of the first scene, the station operator still lies bound, gagged and unconscious on the floor. His young daughter (Mary Snow) enters the door (her cloak tinted red) with his dinner pail. She is startled to see him on the floor. She runs to him, shakes him, and then cuts the ropes that bind him. However, she is still unable to rouse him. Finally, she throws a glass of water in his face that brings him to consciousness. He is able to get to his feet.

Scene 11: The interior of a typical Western dance hall:

(The director of the film uses an inventive technique called jump-cutting or inter-cutting, to cover simultaneous actions in different locales.)

Four couples are dancing a lively square dance, as others watch standing against a wall. (A few of the ladies' dresses are tinted yellow and red). One of the less accomplished, 'greenhorn' dancers, a tenderfoot dancer (Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson again), is pushed to the center of the floor and forced to do a jig. Bystanders are amused and shoot their six-shooters at his feet (seen in a small cloud of colored smoke) to make him dance faster. He runs from them when he gets the chance. The experienced dancers resume their quadrille.

Suddenly, the door bursts open and the exhausted telegraph operator runs in. (The film technique of an ellipsis is introduced here - a leap forward in time by the omission of non-essential material.) He alerts them to the robbery that has occurred, causing an abrupt end to the dance. Enlisting a posse, the men grab their rifles and follow him out the door. They hastily leave the dance hall.

Scene 12: The posse chase:

Through a forested area, the four mounted bandits ride into view, pursued closely by the large posse. As they ride, they exchange gunfire at each other, causing smoke (tinted) to blast from the weapons. One of the bandits is shot and falls from his horse to the ground. He staggers to his feet and fires at one of the posse members to defend himself, but is shot dead a few moments later. The posse rides on after the other three bandits. One of the posse members stops and looks at the dead body.

Scene 13: Pursuit and shoot-out:

The remaining bandits have dismounted from their horses. After looking around and not seeing any danger and thinking that they have eluded their pursuers, they dump the contents of their pouches on the ground to examine their 'take.' As they kneel and crouch down and sift through their booty, they do not notice the members of the posse approaching on foot from behind - until it is too late. They are surrounded. A short, ferocious gun battle begins (smoke from the guns is hand-tinted) and one by one, the bandits are killed. A few of the posse have also lost their lives. The members of the posse gather up the stolen loot and confiscate the bandits' guns.

Scene 14: A life-size closeup picture of the leader of the outlaw band:

The film closes with a medium shot close-up of the bandit chief (with green-tinted shirt and red-tinted kerchief in some versions) (George Barnes) with his hat pushed back on his head. He points and shoots his revolver point-blank, directly into the camera (and, of course, at the audience). This caused a tremendously terrifying sensation at the time.

The Bandit Firing Directly at the Audience

[Note: This final punch to the film was totally irrelevant to the plot. Theater managers were free to either begin or end the picture with this scene, selecting it as either a prologue or epilogue -- a promotional gimmick.]

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