Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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An extract from Strike
A man walks towards the camera, a book embossed with Russian writing held before him. A dead cat hangs from a wooden structure, its tongue hangs out. It sways in the breeze. The man, who wears a bowler hat, walks up to where two cats hang and throws the book he's reading at one. He peers into the camera, fixing a monocle to his eye. An arched building stands in front of him, it has been smashed in. The man walks on. He disturbs a dwarf man who, taking off his jacket, beckons the man to follow him. They walk inside the derelict building and the dwarf man knocks on the boot of an abandoned car. Inside, a man (seen from above) wakes up and peers over the edge. He yells at them. Close up of his mouth, close up of his squinting eyes. He suddenly bangs his hands on his head and ducks back down into the car. The man looking on yells something at him and hides his smiling face behind his bowler hat. The tramp in the car delves his hands into a nearby bin of water, splashing the dwarf, and pulls out a hat, slamming it on his head. He pulls out a jacket. The dwarf holds up a mirror and the tramp, swigging from a bottle, puts the hat on the dwarf and gargles, washing his hands. The dwarf looks on, the hat perched on his head, holding up the mirror. The tramp spits out the water at the dwarfs face, he shields himself with the mirror. His face peering around the frame. As the water drips off, the tramps reflection is revealed, adjusting his necktie, they both laugh.
The man with the bowler hat peeks from behind it as if smiling at a baby. The dwarf places two huge shiny featureless shoes on the ground and the tramp, opening the door to the car-bed, steps into them. They are far too big and he plods around. He and the bowler hatted man shake hands and raise their hats to one another. The tramp politely shows the man into the front of the car, where they sit together, the dwarf behind. The bowler hatted man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a purse. He extracts a coin and gives it to the tramp, who takes it excitedly. He passes him two more coins and they bounce in the car, pretending to drive along. They run up a set of steps to a hatch overlooking a strange field made up of symmetrical rows of cylinders sunk into the ground. The tramp whistles and men and women jump out of the holes. A man pulls out a girl by the back of her shirt. The tramp stands shouting down at them and they cheer back. A bare chested man in a broad hat slowly rises out of one of the holes. Two tramps in soldiers caps look on as a woman with a dirty face and a ripped dress brushes her hair, leering at them. The tramp shouts down at them and they cheer, raising their arms. He gives an order and they all drop back one by one into their holes. Some then climb out and form a line, meeting the bowler hatted man.
An old man wearing a black tie bursts out from under a pile of tarpaulins and yells at the tramp, who, yelling back, pushes him into a hole filled with water. The man flails around and, seen from below, men look down, laughing. They run off, the dwarf leading the way. One by one, they trot down a set of steps against the sun. A man lies in his hole rocking a baby in a suspended basket. At a market a man stood outside a butchers stall, wraps a sausage in a sheet of paper. Things hang down from strings drying in the sun. A man in a tight buttoned overcoat and hat pulled down over his eyes, walks up chewing a match. A friend rushes up to the man outside the butchers and they run off together down the cobbled streets. The over-coated man creeps behind a wall then, peering after them, follows. The two men run through a sunlit square, knowing they're being followed, they look behind and split up. The man following walks through a long corridor of arches, ducking behind barrels. He suddenly runs at high speed up steps. The two men, hiding, peer out having tricked him into running the wrong way. They run down through the set of arches. Meanwhile, the man in black slams his hands down in anger at loosing them. As the men running reach the horizon, the hatted mans head moves slowly into the picture, watching them go. The two friends wander outside, but as they go, a figure nearby drops the newspaper he's reading to reveal that it's the man who's stalking them. He folds up the paper and moves off. The two men jump into trams driving in opposite directions. The tramp and the dwarf scrabble up a bank of earth, sitting down to make plans.
Around a boarded shed, hundreds of workers march. The men wear cloth caps, the women head scarves. The army of tramps run off. The tramp and dwarf break into a shed filled with boxes. They sniff at jars of vodka. The tramp passes down a box of matches and the dwarf sets the straw that lines the shed on fire. Through the tree-lined streets, the workers march forwards. The straw in the still starts to smoke. The workers, fifty across, march forwards. In the barn, the dwarf sits clapping as the vodka goes up, knocking a set of glowing bottles off a shelf. The front of the shed, facing the street, blows off. The marching workers come to a halt, watching the fire. The bottles of vodka run down the ground, carrying the flames. Families in nearby houses hurry to fetch out their belongings. A woman sits outside on a cot holding a child. The straw burns. The workers crowd together shouting, watching the building burn. A woman pulls herself up on a tree to get a better look. From inside the house - the crowd below is visible through a burning window frame. A man climbs up through the window. People inside struggle to throw an armchair out. The workers hold out their hands to catch things from the house. Three Russian officers look on, they stand next to a fire alarm, laughing and twisting their moustaches. An officer peers around a corner as papers float down from the windows. The two friends being followed, run up, watching the crowd, surrounded by piles of rubble. A piano drops from the house. The crowd below beckon. A woman runs up to the two men. The officers stand by the fire alarm. A woman in a head scarf runs up to where they stand. She pleads, clutching at the lapels of the officers, then lunges for the alarm. They raise their fists to her. Two girls carefully carry a trunk from the burning room. The woman shouts at the officers. They threaten her and she pushes one to the ground. She pushes the alarm and runs off, they chase after her.
Two carriages rush down the cobbled street, the camera moving ahead of the horses. The workers run to where the two men running in hiding stand speaking to a gathering audience. The gang of tramps sit drinking the vodka they've rescued from the burning still. They lie in a stupor, the fire blazing around them. The workers stand cheering as the building collapses. The tramps are crushed under falling bricks. The workers, seen through a barbed wire fence, march forwards. Officers on horseback gather. The march moves through the streets. A carriage full of helmeted firemen gallops forwards. The officers stand watching from their horses. The firemen are directed to the blaze. The woman sitting outside her burning house sobs on the cot, her two children in her lap. Next to her is a pile of her possessions. The workers round a corner. The bowler hatted man whistles through his fingers. A fireman puts a bugle to his lips. The flat hose laid out on the ground fills with water. The workers slow down, looking around. Gloved hands hold the nozzles of hoses. Water flies out. They spray the workers, who put their hands to their faces. They start to run. They come down a small street, the water mist rising behind them. The firemen advance slowly, seven of them stand, pulling the hoses behind them. Workers, boxed in, writhe as they are pounded with the jets. A mans face, he squints, batting his arms against the water. The firemen move their hoses in unison. A man is battered around, his shirt ripped from his back. The workers lunge at the two men who had urged them on. The line of firemen. The workers break through a gap and run forwards. A fireman sounds his bugle. Men advance behind the firemen who all turn around, the water arcing overhead. The workers struggle to run, being sprayed from every angle. From inside a room, a hose stream shatters the window and pushes the crockery from the table. The fireman laughs, baring his teeth. Soaking and battered men tumble down a hatchway. They lie, gulping for air. A man walks forwards, a hose trained on his stomach. A fireman increases the pressure. The man is caught between several streams. He walks forwards unsteadily. He falls into a hole, barrels are pushed around with him. The fire engines machinery. The hole fills up with water, the man lies limp. The hoses are shut off and two officers stoop to drag him out. People trapped against a wall roll in the force of the water. A woman rocks, her hair plastered across her face. Elsewhere workers stand together, reading a newspaper. Officers on horseback gallop forwards.
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