Movie 4min

Attack on a China Mission (1900)

Original title: Blue Jackets to the Rescue

Director James Williamson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
(Original) Blue Jackets to the Rescue
(Alternative) Attack on a Chinese Mission
(UK, DVD, 2005) BFI Video
(USA, VHS, DVD) Kino Video
Action Black and White Boxer Rebellion Crime Military Missionary Short Silent Film

The titles tell us this film is based on an incident in the Boxer Rebellion. A man tries to defend a woman and a large house against Chinese attackers. They attack with swords, guns, and paddles. He's over-matched. What will become of the mission, its defenders, and its occupants?

Almost half of the movie has survived, with content from all four scenes giving us the sense of the whole film. It was made in two versions. The first using a single camera position to show the attack on the missionaries outside their house, and then soon after scenes were added at the beginning to show the arrival of the Boxers and cut a reverse shot into the middle to show the rescue by the British navy forces.

The scene opens with the outer gate of the premises; a Chinaman with flourishing sword approaches and tries the gate. Finding it fastened, he calls the others, who come rushing up; one leaps over the gate, and the combined attack results in forcing it open; nine Boxers in Chinese costumes of varied character now swarm in, stopping occasionally to fire in the direction of the house.

The second scene shows the front of the house - the missionary walking in front with a young lady; wife and child are seated a little further off. At the first alarm, the missionary drops his book and sends the young lady into the house to fetch rifle and pistols; he then rushes to his wife and child, and sees them safely into the house; takes cover behind some bushes, discharges his revolver at the Boxers advancing in different directions, kills one, then picks up rifle and discharges it at another; his ammunition exhausted, he comes to close quarters with another Boxer armed with a sword, and, after an exciting fight, is overcome, and left presumably killed. Meanwhile, others of the attacking party have closed round the young lady and followed her, retreating into the house.

Missionary's wife now appears waving handkerchief on the balcony; the scene changes and shows party of bluejackets advancing from the distance, leaping over a fence, coming through the gate, kneeling and firing in fours, and running forward to the rescue, under command of a mounted officer.

The fourth scene is a continuation of the second. The Boxers are dragging the young lady out of the house, which they have set on fire, at the moment the bluejackets appear; a struggle takes place with the Boxers; mounted officer rides up and carries off the young lady out of the melée.

The missionary's wife now rushes out of the house pointing to the balcony, where she has left her child; a bluejacket has secured it, but his passage down the stairs being blocked, three sailors mount on each other's shoulders and land the child safely in the mother's arms.

The struggle with the Boxers continues, but they are finally overcome and taken prisoners.

This sensational project is full of interest and excitement from start to finish, and is everywhere received with great applause

Source: Charles Urban's catalogue of 1903-04

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Florence Williamson - The Girl
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James Williamson - Cinematography (Other)
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Great early movie

This short movie in four scenes is a great early narrative film of a mission that is attacked by the Boxers during their rebellion in China. The mission is then rescued by some military sailors. The movie, and many similar ones like it, was part of the ongoing Boxer movie theme that many filmmakers produced and some claimed were filmed in China although "fake". This film, in particular, seems to be very innovative for its time and has gotten a lot of well-deserved praise. The amount of actors seems also to be almost unprecedented at that time.