KISS IN THE TUNNEL (1899) film no: 2232
Kiss in the Tunnel is a prime example of the development of narrative in early cinema. The film features a man and a woman kissing on a train as it passes through a tunnel and was made by Bamforth and Company of Holmfirth.
The film begins with a steam train heading towards a tunnel. There are grass embankments on each side of the track. The next scene consists of interior footage of a passenger car. A man and woman are sitting opposite each other. The man lights a cigarette, places it on the wooden ledge of the window, and moves over to be next to the woman. They embrace and kiss. The final scene is an exterior shot of the train approaching the station. The train stops at the platform as the film ends.
Made in 1899 Kiss in the Tunnel is one of several early films held by the YFA made by the Bamforth Company of Holmfirth. Others from this period include the 1915 Sharps And Flats, and Winky Causes a Small Pox Panic and Jessie, both from 1914. James Bamforth was one of a small group of early British filmmakers, along with Cecil Hepworth, George Albert Smith, and Robert Paul, and the first to take the music hall tradition into film.
Bamforth started in business in 1870 as a studio photographer and began the production of magic lantern slides around 1883. At first a small-scale enterprise, Bamforth's production of photographic lantern slides was so successful that by 1898 a factory extension to the studio in Station Road, Holmfirth, was built, enabling production on a larger scale. At first, the company specialised in 'life model' slide sequences in which simple narratives, usually conveying moral, temperance and religious themes, were photographed in front of a backcloth, painted by James Bamforth himself. During the showings background music would be played to accommodate the piece shown and a narrator would explain the images to the audience.
The expertise gained in this led the Riley Brothers of Bradford, who had been involved with moving picture technology since 1896 and had already begun to make films of their own, to commission Bamforth in 1898 to produce further films, known as 'RAB' films. The first series of films are from 1899 to 1900. These include, Women’s Rights and Kiss in The Tunnel both from 1899, and Leap Frog and Boy’s Sliding, both from 1900 – all held in the YFA. Several films were made featuring children playing; this may be because these were easy to make and entertaining. The earlier films were made, initially, just as a way to find out how the equipment worked. It is lucky that they survived as they were originally stored in the office of the managing director, where the temperature ruined many of the films.
After 1903 the Company concentrated on picture postcards — although postcards weren’t allowed by the GPO (General Post Office) until 1906 — and then returned to films between 1913 and 1915. As this was right at the beginning of film making, there were no professional film actors, and so locals (even the police) got to act in the films: like Fred Bullock a local blacksmith. Local businesses, such as the bank and railway companies, would make accommodations to allow filming on their sites: ‘Fortunately the railway officials are always willing (subject to the calls of duty) to place a train in any position . . . ‘ (The Photogram, February 1899)
Kiss in The Tunnel is essentially a re-make of a film of the same title made earlier the same year by the Brighton based filmmaker George Albert Smith. This film was a development of the phantom ride, from the front of a train, only in this case, when the train enters a tunnel, another scene, from inside the train, is inserted into the film. In the earlier film Smith and his wife are the kissing couple. Bamforth developed this idea by a three shot film: one of the train entering the tunnel, one from inside the carriage, and one from the station. It was more realistic – the inside of the carriage – and having a more passionate embrace. The man in the film is James Bamforth himself, who upset his wife by kissing another girl – and from a lower social class! The tunnel is possibly between Huddersfield and Thongsbridge, Holmfirth.
Stephen Herbert and Luke McKernan, Who's Who of Victorian Cinema (London: BFI Publishing, 1996)
Allan Sutherland, 'The Yorkshire Pioneers', Sight and Sound, Winter 1976-7, pp. 48-51 Issue 187 - Vol 46 No. 1 1977