#210) The Land Beyond the Sunset (1912)
OR “Duh-nuh Duh-nuh Nuh, Fresh Air! Duh-nuh Duh-nuh Nuh, Child Scare!”
Directed by Harold M. Shaw
Written by Dorothy G. Shore
Class of 2000
The Plot: Joe (Martin Fuller) is a poor newsboy who lives with his abusive grandmother (Mrs. William Bechtel) in a New York City tenement. One day he is invited to a picnic organized by the Fresh Air Fund, a non-profit that provides field trips for underprivileged youth. The children are taken to a park overlooking Long Island Sound, and Joe sees the ocean for the first time. Later, they are told a fairy tale about a “land beyond the sunset” and Joe dreams of escaping his current life to visit this magical land. Then Joe gets on rowboat and we get the most ambiguous ending this side of “Inception”.
Why It Matters: The NFR calls it “genuinely lyrical”, but that’s in quotations. Who are they quoting? There’s also a very brief essay by UC Davis professor and NFR go-to Scott Simmon.
But Does It Really?: I don’t know about this one. It’s an interesting watch, and a short running time is always a plus, but preservation worthy? If the NFR can’t come up with a good defense, what hope do the rest of us have?
Everybody Gets One: Unless I’m missing something, this is the sole NFR entry for everyone in the credited cast and crew. This may be the only one of the over 700 films that can make that claim.
Wow, That’s Dated: Newsies. That’s the main one.
- As evident from the intertitles, this is a Thomas Edison production. According to the Simmon essay, the company’s downfall was sticking to one-reelers while the rest of the industry had moved on to multi-reel features. This film was one of their last successes.
- Of course Joe’s not going to sell any newspapers. He is clearly on a soundstage shot separately from the on-location footage.
- Every time something sad happens to Joe I want them to play the sad Charlie Brown music.
- Joe is invited to a picnic on “Saturday, July 30th”. July 30th was a Tuesday in 1912. Oh yeah, I did my research.
- Do you think these kids (or the adults for that matter) had any idea that someone would be watching this film over 100 years later? It’s kinda crazy if you think about.
- The witch in the fairy tale is played by Joe’s grandmother. Very “Wizard of Oz”.
- Early superimposition. Well done.
- Joe dresses like Pinocchio.
- That…is a weird ending. Everything leading up to it was pretty straightforward, so this comes as a surprise.
- My own take on the ending? That kid is dead. You better believe it.
- The main takeaway is that the New York Fresh Air Fund is real and still going strong! Check them out and help almost 2 million New York City kids!
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