The Kiss in the Tunnel (1898)
- also known as: Cuddling in the Dark
- length: about 70 seconds
- released: 1898
- production company: RAB Films
- director: assumed to be James Bamforth
British Film Institute:
The opportunistic kiss while a train goes through a tunnel and no-one can see was the subject of two films made around the same time. This one, by the Riley Brothers for Bamforth's, has a similar fictional scene to the G A Smith film but arguably improves on it with a more practical set. The two shots of the train going into and emerging from the tunnel are more distant, 'God's eye' views rather than the more immersive 'phantom ride' of Smith's version.
The train in the third segment can be identified as a Midland Railway one and the station is almost certainly Esholt on the MR Shipley to Guiseley line — the camera was positioned here looking eastwards towards the tunnel. As the Bamforth films from this period were a partnership with Riley Brothers of Bradford, this would suggest it was one of the Rileys who filmed the railway footage segments, perhaps around the same time as their short film Queensbury Tunnel (view online).
A copy of the film (Bamforth or Smith?!) was advertised for sale in The Era (10/Jun/1899): "WANTED, to Sell, Film 'Kissing in a Tunnel, 26ft. Price 7s. 6d. Only wants slight repair. Musical Bentleys, Palace, Bridlington."
Who Came First: Bamforth or Smith?
Most sources state that Bamforth copied G. A. Smith's film of the same title, with the difference being that Bamforth's version included the bookend footage of the train entering and then leaving the tunnel, whereas Smith's single-shot version was intended to be spliced into other footage (such as Cecil Hepworth's View from an Engine Front phantom ride). However, the BFI's biography of James Bamforth suggests it isn't clear which of the two films came first.
In The Silent Cinema Reader (2004), Dr. Frank Gray's chapter on Smith's version notes that a cash book entry dated 11 February 1899 reads "New 14 ft cloth + railway carriage, painted in centre [...] £1 15s" which helps to date when this version was made. In turn it is assumed Smith's was the version screened by the Anglo-American Bio-Tableaux at the Canterbury Theatre, London, on 20 March 1899.
However, the South London Mail (10/Dec/1898) page 8 contains a listing for Fred McAvoy's South London Palace which included an "Exclusive Engagement of the Anglo-American Bio-Tableaux, Grand Life-size Pictures, Including The Kiss in the Tunnel, followed by The Honeymoon, and other subjects of thrilling interest". Both The Kiss in the Tunnel and The Honeymoon are titles of known Bamforth films. The same newspaper a week later reviewed the advertised event: "There were the animated pictures — the 'Kiss in the Tunnel' and 'The Honeymoon' causing much hilarity in the darkness of the auditorium". Given that The Honeymoon is a short comedy film, this pairing strongly suggests that it was the Bamforth version of The Kiss in the Tunnel that was screened. In John Barnes' The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894-1901: Volume 5 (page 272) he notes that some of the Bamforth films should "be backdated to 1898", including both of films seemingly screened by Fred McAvoy in December 1898.
An earlier screening (presumably in late November 1898) may have been at the Plymouth Palace Theatre of Varieties, as reported in the Music Hall & Theatre Review (02/Dec/1898):
The Anglo-American Bio-Tableaux displays, embracing scenes in the Soudan, and the panoramic view of the Nile are very striking. There is a landing of blue-jackets which was immensely applauded; and comic element is not forgotten; for example, the kiss in the tunnel is very funny.
If the Anglo-American Bio-Tableaux (run by exhibitor Walter Gibbons) was screening the Bamforth version in December 1898, why did Smith apparently make a new version of the carriage segment for the same distributor a couple of months later? It may be that Gibbons felt Bamforth's version with the working-class couple was too crude, or it may be that his copy of the Bamforth film was worn or damaged and it was more practical to engage Smith to remake it.
In Visual Delights Two: Exhibition and Reception (2005) pages 241-42, the author suggests that the studio-based middle segment is likely to have been filmed during the summer months, partly due to the need for good light and also based on the woman's attire. If so, that would suggest James Bamforth filmed this segment during the summer months of 1898. If this is correct, then Bamforth's The Kiss in the Tunnel becomes a strong contender for the first film to feature a continuity edit, as Robert W. Paul's Come Along, Do! (believed to contain a single continuity edit) was advertised by Paul as being a brand new film on page 27 of The Era (08/Oct/1898). If so, it would suggest both men came up with the idea independently.
Notes and References
- BFI Database.
- Although most sources state 1899, there is compelling evidence of a screening in December 1898.
- With thanks to David Varley of the Railways in and Around Bradford Facebook group.