The Magic Box

7.01 h 48 min19527+
The life and long-forgotten works of William Friese-Greene, a pioneer of British cinema, who claimed to have invented the first film camera.
John Boulting
Robert DonatMargaret JohnstonRichard Attenborough
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Laurence Olivier
Ronald Neame
Festival Film Productions
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4.1 out of 5 stars

105 global ratings

  1. 62% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 5% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 11% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Michael BerryReviewed in the United States on November 23, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
I "streamed" this and the quality was good despite being in SD
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I "streamed" this and the quality was good despite being in SD. The color was delicate but appropriate for the time period covered, ending in 1921.
This is a biopic and covers the tribulations of an early inventor of the movie camera.
The acting by the large cast (with many "guest" appearances} was good.
Maltin gave this film four stars (out of four) but I am ranking it slightly less. The film is enjoyable and exhilarating in some sequences. But it is also sentimental and depressing as Fries-Greene played by Robert Donat endures many financial setbacks as does his family. He evidently was a talented photographer and could make a decent income from doing portraits. But he virtually abandoned this trade to experiment on his invention and seems to have had no business sense. He was not really honored during his lifetime but did receive posthumous recognition.
Anyone interested in the early development of photography and film should find this interesting.
One person found this helpful
Philip R. BeckReviewed in the United States on June 10, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Obscure film, fascinating
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Superb performance by Robert Donat, one of my favorite actors, who sadly made too few films. A slice of cinema history, somewhat romanticized, but about a real film pioneer, the British photographer-inventor William Friese-Greene, who, like the movie about him, is mostly forgotten today. But shouldn't be. Well worth it.
One person found this helpful
killer bReviewed in the United States on January 21, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars
Required viewing
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Very educational and moving story of William Freise-Greene, who invented moving pictures. He was an engineer with no business acumen and was abused and victimized for the lack of it for the rest of his life. A lot of cameos several years before AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. My Father lost an infant daughter and my Mother at age 39. He then had two patents stolen, one of them out of the patent office. This picture hurts me twice as much but it is an achievement and needs to be watched. Photographed by Jack Cardiff, the Dean of English light.
2 people found this helpful
Bill CollinsReviewed in the United States on January 2, 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
The Magic Box
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The Magic Box A fine and entertainging film about a little known inventor of motion pictures. William Freise-Greene a noted photographer of the day, yoused up his earnings to develop sprocketed celouloid film. At the time of his death he handed in his latest results of his results on colour film. A movie with lots of fine actors, and a must for people interested in the motion picture industry. Thank you for allowing me to purchase such a wonderful dvd. of such fine quality. Kind Regards Bill Collins.
One person found this helpful
FatboyReviewed in the United States on July 9, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Not formatted for American players!
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DVD does not play on my DVD or Blue Ray players. Wish seller said DVD is not formatted tor American players. No stars should even be given.
letsgoplacesReviewed in the United States on December 3, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
Robert Donat is one of my favorite actors. This movie was good but not great
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Robert Donat is one of my favorite actors. This movie was good but not great. HE is always good but the writing wasn't the best in my opinion.
Carmine ZappalaReviewed in the United States on April 22, 2014
3.0 out of 5 stars
Parallel development of the mechanism for motion pictures.
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So many Cameo and credited British actors. Parallel development of the mechanism of motion picture fundamentals, though his mechanism was too complicated. Very interesting.
Don KershanReviewed in the United States on March 2, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
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