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Sheffield History

A Daring Daylight Burglary

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Daring Daylight Burglary (1903) was a fast-paced crime thriller that was the first of many chase films with which the Sheffield Photo Company established an international reputation.

Compared with other British films of the period, the pacing is unusually rapid and the narrative is surprisingly sophisticated - particularly its use of a revenge motive (the policeman avenging his badly injured comrade), which viewers of just about any current action thriller will immediately recognise as a key ingredient of the genre.

Admittedly, this in itself is not much of an advance on William Haggar's Desperate Poaching Affray (made the same year), but this and other elements, such as the use of a wide range of contrasting locations, show that director Frank Mottershaw was keen to make his film as visually and dramatically appealing as he could given the limitations of the basic story.

While R.W.Paul was making use of the jump cut as the main focus of films like Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903), here it's just one technique among many, as the policeman is quickly substituted by a dummy as he's hurled off the roof by the burglar. Camera placement and editing are consistently intelligent, with Mottershaw often cutting on action to ensure maximum dramatic impact.

The film was shot in three days at a cost of £25, and the British rights were sold to the Charles Urban Company for £50. It was enormously successful both in Britain and abroad: between 500 and 600 copies were sold, including an American order for 100 copies (it was extensively pirated in the US). It was also a major influence on Edwin S Porter's classic The Great Train Robbery (1903), the film said to have originated the American action movie.

http://www.screenonl...film/id/443089/

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Frank S Mottershaw (1850-1932)

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The police station viewed in the film is on Archer Road near Millhouses Crossroads (the Robin Hood pub can be seen in the distance) - the former police station building is now an expensive Italian restaurant.

The policeman's body looks like it was collected on Hutcliffe Wood Road (I'm not 100% sure but I think it is), the chase then barrels down the embankment from HWR to Archer Road and onwards across the River Sheaf to Millhouses station.

The burglar is probably arrested at Millhouses too (different angle) but may possibly be at Beauchief station, the next station up the line towards Dore & Totley.

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The First Action Movie, a documentary about A Daring Daylight Robbery on Radio 4 at the moment and presumably available on the iPlayer for seven days.

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The chase scenes reminded me of this real-life report

CHASING A THIEF THROUGH ENDCLIFFE WOODS.
At the Town Hall on Saturday, before Mr. E. Tozer and Mr. John Wilson. Thomas Henry Heath labourer, hailing from Nottingham, was charged with stealing a purse containing a £5 note, £13 in gold and some silver, the property of Mr. Fretwell, an old man, lodging with Mrs. Tibbinum, at 301 Manchester Road. An uncle of the prisoner lodges at the same house as the prosecutor, and on Saturday the 22nd. Inst., the prisoner came to stay with him and lodged there the two following nights. On Monday morning the prosecutor missed his purse from his pocket. The prisoner had then left the house, but a nephew of Mrs. Tibbinum’s went in search of him, and found him at the Ranmoor Inn. Police-constable Akell was called and when the prisoner saw them coming he bolted out of the house and down through Endcliffe Woods to Hunter’s Bar. They followed prisoner, and with the assistance of a labourer named John Holt captured him in Mr. Daniel’s farm yard, between Hunter’s Bar and Greystones. The watch guard, a £5 note and £9 in gold were found in his possession. While prisoner was being chased he was stopped by a man to whom he offered a sovereign to let him go, and when the man refused to do so drew his knife and compelled him to do so. – The prisoner pleaded guilty. He said he found the purse on the hearthrug on Sunday night, and had intended to return it, but that being out of work, he yielded to the temptation to steal it. – He was committed to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 31 October 1887

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