Monday, May 01, 2017

The Execution Of Mary, Queen Of Scots (1895)

DIRECTOR: Alfred Clark


Mrs Robert L. Thomas


A short film that depicts the execution of Mary, Queens of Scots.

I have always wanted to go back to the very beginning of the horror genre. The whole reason I started Schlock Horror was that I wanted to review anything and everything relating to horror movies. The plan was to hold off until the beginning of next year to start delving into the origins of the horror genre, but I thought I might get a jump on things. I guess my curiosity got the best of me and I am always looking to discover and learn as much as I can about horror cinema.

Depending on what websites you visit, where you do your research or which essays you read about the horror genre. You may get some very conflicting reports on what people consider to be the first horror short or movie. I decided to start myself off with The Execution Of Mary Stuart. Also known as The Execution Of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was listed as the first short film to use special effects and features footage of a lady having her head cut off with an axe. It sounds like horror to me.

At just 18 seconds long, this is a tough short film to review. With no story or sound, this is all based on visuals. The Execution Of Mary Stuart is all about mood. Imagine walking into a dark theatre and seeing footage of a woman having her head cut-off with an axe? For an audience member back in the late eighteen hundreds, this would have been pretty shocking to watch. According to some reports, people had actually believed that a woman had laid her life down for this bit of horrifying footage.

I think we must mention the visual tricks of having a woman kneel down towards the chopping block and using a mannequin to replace her and have its head cut off. The editing during this moment is very clean. I wasn't sure what to expect from such a moment, but I was expecting something a little more dodgy looking for the time. If you were to upload this to YouTube and say nothing, it could easily be mistaken for a real piece of snuff. I have to applaud them for how great this looks for the time.

It's also important to note that Thomas Edison had hired director Alfred Clark to make this short film. The Execution Of Mary, Queen Of Scots is also believed to be the first piece of cinema to feature hired actors. Regardless of the short time and me finding it hard to say much other than that this short contains some genuinely horrific imagery, which was probably very realistic back in the days of its release. I believe this is still a significant piece of history, cinema and I am thrilled that I got to see it.



- A woman has her head cut off with an axe.

I am so glad that I had decided to go back and delve into the history of horror. To go back to watch what some consider to be the first piece of horror cinema. An eighteen second short that features the decapitation of a woman was a pleasure to watch. Just based on mood and visuals, this needs to be seen. This is a short film of importance. A pretty historic one. A short that if it had not been made, we might have not seen what the horror genre would become or what it is we love and admire today.


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  5. The movie jumps in pretty quickly to a good-versus-evil plot and one that goes beyond that of childish good guy v. bad guy.