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Simply by its name the action film genre would seem to be the easiest of all genres to describe In fact unlike a genre such as the Western whose generic markers are largely clear-cut deserts cowboys horses shoot-outs on Main Street the frontier the action film can be defined so broadly that it becomes a term of almost no use at all Technically as marked by the cry of action by the director at the beginning of all scenes every film is an action film and all films have action in them But the categorization of any film in the action genre has come to mean that it has two essential things violence and death Additionally there is almost always an overtly masculine ethosThe history of action films is almost as old as cinema evidenced for instance in the battle sequences of DW Griffiths Birth of a Nation 1915 or later in the climactic shoot-out and race against the Apache to make it to the town of Tonto in John Fords Stagecoach 1939 or much later in the dizzying chases that open and close Alfred Hitchcocks Vertigo 1958 But action films as we regard them today are almost exclusively both a post-Classical Hollywood Studio and a post-Vietnam War phenomenon this is for two major reasonsFirst the breakdown of the studio system which was initiated by the Paramount Decrees in 1949 and the crisis in which mainstream American cinema found itself in the face of television forced Hollywood to distinguish itself from the small screen and to offer experiences to audiences which TV could not deliver One important way film did this was to emphasize widescreen including Vistavision and Cinescope new color processes from Technicolor to Tru-color and special effects 3-D being the most ignominious though it seems to have found a suitable legacy in IMAX films This development of the big screen paved the way for the pyrotechnics high speed car chases nuclear explosions True
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