The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)

This re-enactment — just 18 seconds long — of the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, is among the first films to use trained actors, as well as one of the first to use editing for the purposes of special effects. Produced by Thomas Edison and directed by Alfred Clark, the film shows a blindfolded Mary (played by Robert Thomae, secretary and treasurer of the Kinetoscope Company) being led to the execution block. When the executioner's axe is raised, an edit occurs during which Thomae is replaced by a mannequin, the head of which is then summarily lopped off. It is the very first death scene (of many) in the history of cinema.

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