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The Uses of Explosives in Clearing New Farms and Rejuvenating Old Ones

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Louis Pelletier, "Useful Cinema, Film Genres, and Screen Networks: The Story of Canadian Films Limited (1919-1920)," The Moving Image 11, no. 3 (2011): 69-70.
"The multiple contracts signed with Canadian firms finally permitted Canadian Films to launch its production activities in September of 1919, more than six months after the company’s creation. Canadian Films’ first completed production was a one-reeler sponsored by Canadian Explosives Ltd. and entitled The Use of Explosives in Clearing New Farms and Rejuvenating Old Ones. The film has long been considered lost, but an annotated shooting script survives. It reveals a conscious effort on the producer’s part to turn this filmed advertisement aimed at a narrow audience of farm owners into something more palatable to a wider audience, most notably through the injection of a strong streak of misogynistic lowbrow comedy. The script thus opens with the following exchange between the protagonist, a farmer, and his friend:

Scene 1. Farmer leaning over fence looking blue and discouraged. Friend strolls along.

Friend. Pretty tough looking farm you have, Tom. Is it all like this?

Farmer with a snort. Worse: I’ll show you, it’s as bad as a mother-in-law with the mumps.

They walk over the fields. Farmer pointing out the stumps. Rocks. Etc.

Farmer despairingly. The rocky road to Dublin was a feather bed compared to this farm, all I can raise on it is malaria, chilblains and profanity.

Friend. Huh, that’s easy. Let Dinah do the work.

Farmer. Dinah who?

Friend. Dinamite [sic].

Pulls out a booklet explaining the great advantages of clearing land with C.X.L. Farmer listens dubiously at first, then becomes interested by degrees.

Farmer. Well Dinah might, but isn’t it dangerous?

Friend. No. Easy as making love to an old maid. Order C.X.L. dynamite before your wife asks for another new dress. I’ll show how it works.

Farmer brightening up. Thanks old man. I’ll do it right away.

So much for “dignified” product placement. The rest of the script concerns itself with the demonstration of various possible uses of dynamite in agriculture.
In addition to the scene breakdown and dialogues, the extant script for The Use of Explosives features some instructions obviously aimed at the film’s camera operator (and de facto director), which provide us with a fascinating glimpse of Canadian Films’ filmmaking process. The script’s author for instance explains that, 'None of the operators should be looking at the camera. J.B.M. [J.B. Moriarty, manager of Canadian Explosives’ agricultural division] to be the only demonstrator. Mr. Godfrey to appear as farmer and others as spectators. Be careful that all photograph before and after show the same background. Be careful to place the box of explosives, detonators, E.B. Caps and fuse in such a position throughout the picture so that the labels will distinctly show name and trademark.'
The resulting film seems to have been competently made. It was, in any case, declared to be 'an A1 production' by Canadian Explosives’ sales executives and directors, to whom it had been submitted for review. Canadian Explosives acquired from Canadian Films one copy of the film printed on non-inflammable film stock ($65) and one portable projector ($225) so that its sales agents could show it to prospective customers. This proved to be a wise decision, as the film’s exhibition in commercial theaters was delayed for a full year: The Use of Explosives was only released by the Famous Lasky Film Service in the fall of 1920, after the General Film deal fell through. Even then, there is no way to tell if it was ever exhibited in more than a handful of Canadian theaters."