SANDOW (W.K.L. Dickson, 1896, USA, 1m, BW)
SANDOW (W.K.L. Dickson, 1896, USA, 1m, BW)
Director: William K.L. Dickson
Writer: William K.L. Dickson
Star: Eugen Sandow
Sandow is a series of three 1894 silent short actuality films by the Edison Studios featuring bodybuilder Eugen Sandow, directed by William K.L. Dickson. The series is considered a historically significant early film series. "The film began with Sandow holding his hands behind his head, enabling a conspicuous bit of biceps flexing and abs display. (Speaking of display, Sandow’s posing shorts left very, very little to the imagination.) Sandow then folded his arms across his meaty chest, followed by a modified version of the crab pose that enabled another view of his abs while showing off his forearms. After a quick single biceps pose, Sandow turned around for a lat spread, showing off a ridiculously well-developed back. After a few stretching exercises, Sandow turned back to the camera and repeated his poses."
Strong-man Eugene (Eugen) Sandow poses in a long shot on a bare stage against a black background, wearing only tight trunks and laced sandals. He begins with his arms folded against his chest, looking off screen left, then strikes a variety of poses that accentuate his muscular development. These positions include flexing his right arm with the fist to his head and face to shoulder; turning his back to the camera and flexing his upper arms and shoulder muscles; and, with his back still to the camera, stretching out and up with one arm at a time. Sandow then turns back to face the camera and performs a standing back flip. He closes in the same pose with which he opened From Biograph photo catalog: 24 feet. Still another picture of the great athlete displaying his muscles, and turning a somersault without touching hands to the floor.
Production and distribution
Promoter Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. found that the audience was more fascinated by Sandow's bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting, so Ziegfeld had Sandow perform poses which he dubbed "muscle display performances"... and the legendary strongman added these displays in addition to performing his feats of strength with barbells. He added chain-around-the-chest breaking and other colorful displays to Sandow's routine. Sandow quickly became Ziegfeld's first star.
In 1894, Sandow featured in a short film by the Edison Studios. The film was of only part of the show and features him flexing his muscles rather than performing any feats of physical strength. While the content of the film reflects the audience attention being primarily focused on his appearance it made use of the unique capacities of the new medium. Film theorists have attributed the appeal being the striking image of a detailed image moving in synchrony, much like the example of the Lumière brothers' Repas de bébé where audiences were reportedly more impressed by the movement of trees swaying in the background than the events taking place in the foreground. In 1894, he appeared in a short Kinetoscope film that was part of the first commercial motion picture exhibition in history.
Eugen Sandow (April 2, 1867 – October 14, 1925), born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, was a pioneering German bodybuilder known as the "father of modern bodybuilding". Born Frederick Muller in Konigsberg, Germany, 'The Modern Hercules' as he was known, was already an established entertainer when he travelled out to West Orange to be filmed in Edison's Black Maria on 6 March 1894. Like many others at the time, Sandow was greatly impressed by the legend of the 'Wizard' and it was said that he waived his $250 fee on this occasion for a chance to meet the great man and have his photograph taken with him. The film taken of Sandow was one of a number featuring athletes, gymnasts and acrobats taken by W.K-L. Dickson for use in the Edison Kinetoscope. Further films of Sandow's 'Muscular Exhibition' were taken in early 1896 by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, and one of them was included on the opening-night programme at the Palace Theatre in London in March 1897. Sandow married the daughter of an English photographer and settled in London where he opened an 'Institute of Health' in St James Street. He was the author of several books on physical fitness, regimen and diet. He died as the result of a stroke after single-handedly lifting an automobile out of a ditch.
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