Murder on Beacon Hill is an interactive iPhone app that guides the viewer around locations in Boston pertaining to the killing in 1849 of Dr George Parkman. Download the app, put on your comfortable shoes and head into the streets of the old Beacon Hill neighbourhood, where you can relive the unearthing of a dismembered body beneath Harvard Medical College, the manhunt, and the arrest and trial of the victim's former classmate, Professor John Webster. "The story begins at Massachusetts General Hospital," intones narrator-cum-sleuth Alexandra Macdougall before instructing you to "Press Wax Seal number 1" or "Come with me inside the Ether Dome."
Even those who have resisted the lure of the iPhone will recognise the principle from the audiotours that are part of any museum visit. But plodding through Bath's ancient spas, being told by the electronic guide that you're looking at the Spring overflow when all you can see in front of you is a party of German schoolchildren in Korn T-shirts and bumbags, surely has nothing on the experience of living through Murder at Beacon Hill.
It remains to be seen whether the app will retain its pulp allure on the larger screen, when the distinction between viewer and participant will be clearer, though the subjective camerawork and mystery-stoking score already embrace traditional filmmaking technique. That this is a landmark moment is indisputable. If it's not quite the Lumière brothers at the Grand Café in 1895, it will at least be a night to recall once the inaugural Oscar for Best Original App is handed out.