The Granddaddy of All Gangster Movies

Note: This is part one of The Musketeers of Pig Alley; part two is after the jump.

Shot on location in 1912 New York City, reportedly using real-life gang members as extras, D.W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley is an underworld epic in miniature, and generally considered the first gangster movie ever made. That's not the only way Griffith made film history; look closely around the thirteen-minute mark, as one of the film’s many thugs walks ominously toward the camera. You’ll see not only one of the first uses of follow-focus in cinematography (a device that allows the focus to be easily adjusted during a shot) but also one of the first modern uses of the close-up for intensifying effect. The Musketeers of Pig Alley will be shown on Monday as part of Film Forum’s amazing five-week “NYC Noir” series, along with Joseph Von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York and Raoul Walsh’s Regeneration. The film is also available, along with many other classic Griffith shorts, on DVD from Kino Video. —Bilge Ebiri

The Musketeers of Pig Alley, part two: