(Review originally written at 27 December 2007)

This is the first ever filmed boxing match, from Edison and Co. They practiced it before with the movie "Men Boxing" in 1891, which featured two Edison employees in a fake fight.

Shot boxing matches would eventually in the future turn out to be the most profitable movies from the Edison Manufacturing Company. The footage was sold per round for $22.50 for each round, which could be viewed in a kinetoscope. Really a lot of money of course for that time. Nevertheless it became quite a success, also not in the least because boxing at the time was banned in some states in America. So for most this was basically the only legal way to ever see a boxing match at that time.

Only one round of the match has survived and can be seen this present day, simply because Edison and Co. didn't bother to make paper negatives of each round because only one was needed to submit for copyright purposes.

The match was shot in Edison's Black Maria studio, so it wasn't really a real fight. These matches also would have a prearranged ending and winner, in order for Edison Manufacturing Company to have the insurance that they could sell a certain amount of rounds per match. It involves the two professional boxers Mike Leonard (in white) and Jack Cushing (in black). Even though it wasn't an official match, that doesn't mean that the two are going easy on each other. The bare knuckle punches are all real alright. The fight is full of hard fighting, clever hits, punches, leads, dodges, body blows and some slugging. To make it look all the more authentic, a couple of seemingly random blokes are sitting in the background, behind the ring watching the match, as well as having a referee in the ring, who looks like he's ready to step between the two fighters any moment.

The frame rate doesn't seem to be right, since the entire round seems to occur in slow motion. Also the quality of the images isn't among the best of the Edison Manufacturing Company of that time but it still looks good enough alright.

Mostly because of the unexpected success of boxing matches on film, it became commercially really attractive to make more films such as this one, which caused that more artistic and experimental projects were pushed more to the background and became more or less a side-line for the Edison Manufacturing Company.

So this can be seen as the first real commercially produced film.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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