User Reviews (7)

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  • Daybreak Express (1957)

    *** (out of 4)

    This here was director D.A. Pennebaker's second short and it takes place throughout New York City just as the sun is starting to rise. The camera is basically placed on an express train and we get countless images from the city with all of them connected by the fact that the sun is rising.

    It's obvious where the title comes from but for the most part I really enjoyed this short for what it was. There's a lot of quick edits and the focus never stays on one thing for too long but this works perfectly well against the Duke Ellington music score that is going throughout the picture. I really loved the cinematography as well and especially the early shots of the sun just starting to rise among the sky scrappers.
  • enochsneed1 December 2006
    A brisk little film, beautifully photographed, around the 3rd Avenue Elevated railway in New York. Apparently it was due for demolition so Mr Pennebaker immortalised it in this film. We see lots of stark monumental railway architecture silhouetted against the morning skies, 1950's commuters in trilby hats and overcoats, and swirling images as the trains plunge into central New York. A good experiment with technique, a great soundtrack, and now a great piece of nostalgia.

    I saw this as an accompaniment to "The Horse's Mouth" on DVD. I am pleased the filmmaker was stubborn enough not to sell the film outright and made a handsome return of $25 a week during the run of the main feature.
  • This is what was said before this short was shown at a movie theater in NYC I got a chance to watch it in. I think it applies well; this is a short that is simply composed of images of the city circa mid 1950's. It's extraordinary not necessarily for what is shown alone, though first timer D.A. Pennebaker does overload the viewer with experiments in using the camera in traveling motion. I found that aspect of the film to stand well on its own terms from a purely visual perspective. But, like a Stan Brakhage film, you have to be very, very concentrated in your visual output and montage for this film to stand without anything else applied. So Pennebaker does something very wise by putting the film to one of Duke Ellington's briskest, most inspiring musical numbers. The director here knows well that, with the right music, the images work twice as effectively; in a way this is like one of the early, rough kind of music videos. That it's done to a number by one of America's best composers, never-mind Jazz musicians and orchestrator's, creates a special mood for it. It doesn't over-stay its length, and it fills up the swooping and careening subway and car shots with great tact. Like the one-line says, if you want a quick fix, here's one for those wondering what happened to MTV lately.
  • boblipton18 January 2021
    D.A. Pennebaker's first film pairs images from a trip on the Third Avenue elevated train with Duke Ellington's music in a frenetic and cinematic short.

    The 3rd Avenue El opened in 1878, running from South Ferry to Grand Central. Service to Harlem was added later in the year, and it was eventually extended to the Bronx. Service in Manhattan ended in the middle of the 1950s, and the bits that continued in the Bronx ended in 1973. The replacement service, the Second Avenue Subway, opened in 2017, despite having raised money in the 1920s. Current it runs from 72nd Street to 96th. Current plans call for the extension to 125th Street to open by 2029. Snicker.
  • It is a film at only 5 minutes in length, yes, but it is still a great piece of cinema, regardless!

    Documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker has made 2 of my all time favorite films, "Don't Look Back" and "Monterey Pop", which are both music documentaries. "Daybreak Express" can, arguably, be considered a music documentary, considering almost the entire film includes a soundtrack by Duke Ellington, which flows perfectly with the beautiful imagery of the sights and sounds of city life.

    It is an amazing short film, which contains tons of excellent imagery! I'd recommend it to most people, which is a type of recommendation that I've never really given to most experimental film. But, this short is fun and amusing enough to entertain most people, especially those with some minor-major interest in cinema.
  • SnoopyStyle18 January 2021
    It's a 5 minute short. Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker films New York City in, around, and from an elevated subway train. It's slightly experimental. It has music from Duke Ellington. It's energetic. The most appealing is catching glimpses of 50's NYC and its people. It's cool and it's a quick fun shorty.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This one here is a 5-minute short film by writer and director D.A. Pennebaker. He made this one over 60 years ago, back in 1953 and it was his first project in the world of film. Pennebaker is still alive today, turned 90 this year, an Oscar nominee and Honorary Oscar recipient. In "Daybreak Express" he shows us the break of dawn from a train's perspective. We constantly hear the train, also hear some music and just see some of the buildings from the city or people sitting in the train on a couple occasions. I am not too familiar with Pennebaker's other works, but this one here did not really impress me I must say. Still it's not entirely bad and certainly an okay difference to the uncountable number of cartoons made by Disney, Warner Bros. and other around the time when this came out.