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We have included this film in our program to illustrate the work and contributions of our star Helen Holmes.
"The Wild Engine" directed by J.P. McGowan from a story by Edward T. Matlack, is a short action film from a serial by the name of "The Hazards of Helen" starring Helen Holmes. This is episode 26 from a total of 119 weekly one reel films produced by Kalem, showing just how popular this serial was in 1914-1917. The first 48 films starred Helen Holmes, the remaining 71 starred Helen Gibson. They both played heroines that were independent and adventurous, resolving dangerous situations with quick thinking. Their acting was very physical and they performed their often very dangerous stunts. It is believed to be the longest film series in the silent era and one of the longest ever. Very few of the films survive, and we are happy to be able to show this rarity to our esteemed viewers.
Many of the episodes, including this one, tell about railroad adventures. One morning Helen has a job interview for a dispatcher. The hiring manager likes her, but the top boss tell him: "I will hold you responsible if anything happens, because women can't use their heads in an emergency".
Helen has to deal with a hazardous situation right away. A maneuvering locomotive goes on a wild run after the engineer is knocked out by a loose cable. If Helen can't help it, the locomotive will collide from behind with an excursion train and many people may be hurt. She takes the courier's motorcycle to catch up with the excursion train, but not before leaving a warning on the railway tracks for incoming trains. One such train avoids collision by moving to a side track thanks to her note.
Helen rides on the railway tracks and must go over a bridge. The operator, however, at this exact moment raises the bridge to let a steamship pass, and both Helen and the motorcycle end up falling in the river. This misfortune doesn't deter her, however, and she is able to reach the excursion train just in time for it to move to a side track. The runaway engine passes by harmlessly and after that it is captured and stopped by another locomotive.
In the meantime dramatic events transpire at the office and we can see the exact timing by the clock on the wall. At 12,47 the big boss's short fuse finally explodes and he fires the manager, who hired Helen, believing that she cannot cope with the situation. Then Helen calls to give them the news that everything is under control and everybody is safe. At 1,13 the big boss reinstates to his job the manager he laid off just 26 minutes before that.
The big boss presents his apologies to Helen and thanks her for the good work. In a little insult to his injury he has to buy a new motorcycle.
Click to enlarge:
The Wild Engine
Helen Holmes has a job interview at 9,32 AM in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes is hired despite the reluctance of the top boss in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes deciphers a message in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes takes charge of the emergency in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes fixes a warning sign on the tracks in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes rides a motorcycle to catch the excursion train in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes' sign on the tracks prevents a catastrophe in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes rides a motorcycle on the tracks as the bridge raises for a ship in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes rides a motorcycle on the tracks and falls in the river in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes warms about the danger in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes reaches the excursion train in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes averts disaster - the runaway engine misses the excursion train in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
The top boss fires the hiring manager in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes calls with the good news in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
The top boss reinstates the hiring manager in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes speaks with the hiring manager in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes gets an apology from the top boss as the hiring manager looks on in "The Wild Engine" (1915).
Helen Holmes in a daring stunt
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