At the beginning of the 20th century, the ‘chase film’ became a popular genre. The films generally had a simple, linear narrative structure wherein the shots followed each other in a natural way and the film needed no further explanation or clarification.
Originally these chase scenes were part of a longer film (such as in The Great Train Robbery by Edwin Porter from 1903), but in no time the chasing was isolated from the rest and the chase film expanded to a genre unto itself. The most famous and imitated chase film is Porter’s Personal, from 1904. The film is about a young man who has a date with a woman. Upon his arrival at the agreed-upon location, he is confronted with a large group of waiting women, all keen on marrying him. The man runs – and is of course chased by the ladies.
Personal was extremely popular and it wasn’t long before versions of the same story started to appear: Edison released How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the Personal Colums of the New York Herald in 1904, and a year later, Pathés’ Dix femmes pour un mari followed. At the beginning of 1905, the Mullens brothers (Alberts Frères), too, made a film about the same situation: Ah! Ah! die Oscar was recorded in Scheveningen, and was a huge success.
With De mésaventure van een Fransch heertje zonder pantalon aan het strand te Zandvoort, the brothers continued along this same path. This film, too, centres round a chase scene, but the genre is coupled with the equally popular local film genre. De mésaventure van een Fransch heertje… became an instant hit, also in part thanks to the publicity that was generated around the film.
One year later, the Mullens brothers made another chase film using the same tried-and-true formula. This time, however, they didn’t have to create a ‘national hype’ as they had with De mésaventure van een Fransch heertje… Instead, they used the commotion surrounding the notorious murderer of Haarlem, Frans Rosier, after he escaped from the state insane asylum in Medemblik in February 1906.
In early March, Albert and Willy Mullens set off for the Frisian village of Marssum, a stone’s throw from Leeuwarden, where their travelling cinema was at the time. There they recorded Een fantasie-jacht op Frans Rosier with the co-operation of the local residents. The film was an ‘amusing parody’ in eight acts in which it turned out that, ultimately, the man they were pursuing was not Frans Rosier but instead was an innocent man who had the misfortune to resemble him.