Film Review: Kansas Saloon Smashers (1901)

Release Date: March 16th, 1901
Directed by: Edwin S. Porter

Edison Studios, 1 Minute


Kansas Saloon Smashers was a short one minute motion picture put out by Thomas Edison’s film company. Back in that time, his studio was at the forefront of motion picture technology and were typically the ones who made the biggest breakthroughs from a technical standpoint. Their films weren’t necessarily known for their artistic merit but more for being tests for the creative medium, as it evolved year after year.

However, they weren’t below dabbling in political satire, which is exactly what this film did.

This movie is a parody of the then famous political activist and busybody Carrie Nation. For those who don’t know, Nation was a radical member of the Temperance Movement, a group that fought against all the fun things in life like intoxication and sex. They used their influence to pressure the government into enacting laws that favored eventual Prohibition, as well as trying to force abstinence on the public.

Nation and her group were horrible people. She was also famous for wielding a hatchet that she would use to bust up taverns and destroy other people’s property. She even referred to herself as “…a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.”

This quick film’s plot showcases a bartender serving his fun loving patrons. After he fills a man’s bucket with beer, Carrie Nation and her peeps bust into the bar and start causing havoc. She swings her hatchet and smashes up the place as best as she can until the bartender and the police toss her out, presumably on her ass.

Kansas Saloon Smashers was a very influential film, as it inspired other studios to pump out quick little pictures about Carrie Nation. Edison Studios even produced another one called Why Mr. Nation Wants a Divorce, which took shots at her failing second marriage. Pretty juicy stuff for the early 1900s.

The most notable thing about the movie, other than its influence and condemnation of Nation, was that it employed stop-action techniques for the bits where Nation is smashing up the bar.

And since it is so short, I have posted the film in its entirety below.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other experimental films by Edison.

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