Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Silent Screams - Puppet Masters | The Merry Skeleton (1897)

While Le squelette joyeux (The Merry Skeleton) is more lighthearted fun with little-to-no scares [to us modern viewers], with it the Lumiere brothers lay the groundwork for using special effects to create monster movie magic, which has advanced a tad in the 100+ years since.

In fact, only 3 years later, Frederick Armitage successfully transported the skeleton away from the static black background and onto a pirate ship at sea for Davey Jones' Locker. The next thing you know, Davy Jones is raising hell in a Disney movie setting sail towards $1 billion dollars, literally. Thanks, Lumiere brothers!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Silent Screams - The Road to Elm Street | A Nightmare (1896)

Georges Melies -- our defending champion -- wins spot #2 in the series as well, this time for Le Cauchemar (aka A Nightmare).

It's not exactly Wes Craven material as the presentation is more humorous than horrific (though Freddy can be a pretty funny dude at times). However, scary movies are so deeply rooted within nightmares that this work by the cinemagician cannot be ignored. It also happens to be highly entertaining and contains excellent stop-motion substitution tricks especially innovative for the time.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Silent Screams - World's 1st Horror Movie | The Devil's Castle (1896)

Considered the first horror movie -- and arguably the first vampire movie -- Le manoir du diable (aka The Devil's Castle) is an 1896 Georges Melies film that runs for over 3 minutes, an astonishing length for the time.

The film has been known by a variety of alternate names -- The Devil's Manor, The Manor of the Devil, The House of the Devil, and The Haunted Castle -- the latter is actually a different movie by Méliès, made 1 year later on the same set and with many of the same costumes. It is also notable for containing some of the earliest hand-tinting of images.

Monday, October 1, 2012

From Muted Mayhem to Silent Screams

Way back on the first day of Summer, I began a "Slapstick Series" to explore the earliest days of that comedic genre within film. Along the way, I took a break to focus on THIS -- which still takes up much of my time and attention (please help!) -- and didn't quite make it all the way to my intended grand finale double-feature.

Speaking of which, I'd planned to end with the 1st Harold Lloyd appearance as his "Glasses" character, followed by the 1st movie written, directed, and starring Buster Keaton. Looks like now I've got a pretty strong opening bill lined up for next Summer instead.

But now it's October and my favorite time of year. The days shorten, the leaves are dying and falling to the ground where they'll decompose. Soon it'll be Halloween. And thus the perfect time to explore Horror movies in their infancy, which I plan to do in a "Silent Screams" series starting tomorrow.

As for the 2012 Summer Slapstick Series -- R.I.P., you were loved. Below are each of its entries, listed alongside the silent film spotlighted within:
  1. The 1st Movie Comedy - The Sprinkler Sprinkled (1895)
  2. Wrestling w/ Melies - The Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (1900)
  3. The 1st True Slapstick - An Interesting Story (1904)
  4. Pre-Iconic - A Story Well Spun (1906)
  5. Exhibit E. Porter - Getting Evidence (1906)
  6. Key Stepping Stone - The Policemen's Little Run (1907)
  7. A Killer Joke - That Fatal Sneeze (1907)
  8. The Original Queen of Comedy - Laughing Gas (1907)
  9. Dark Comedy - The Thieving Hand (1908)
  10. A Step Back - The Runaway Horse (1908)
  11. Timeless - A Very Fine Lady (1908)
  12. Outside The Tableau - Chimney Sweep (1906)
  13. Key Foundation Cornerstone - The Bricklayers (1905)
  14. Vaudevillians - Robetta and Doretto, No. 2 (1895)
  15. The 1st Pie Face - Mr. Flip (1909)
  16. Ladies, Please! - Those Awful Hats (1909)
  17. Multilevel Comedy - The Irresistible Piano (1907)
  18. Semi-Meta - A Fall from Five Floors (1906)
  19. Don't Sleep on These - The Rolling Bed (1907)
  20. A Vehicle for Comedy - The '?' Motorist (1906)
  21. Passing the Torch - The Race for the Sausage (1907)
  22. Laugh Olympics - An Obstacle Course (1906)
  23. When Harry Met Zecca - Slippery Jim (1910)
  24. Character Development - How Bumptious Papered the Parlour (1910)
  25. Moving On - Alkali Ike's Auto (1911)
  26. Comedic TimingOnésime, Clockmaker (1912)
  27. Before The Fame - Troublesome Secretaries (1911)
  28. Laugh With Linder - Troubles of a Grasswidower (1912)
  29. Keystone Mack [Sennett] Daddy - The Water Nymph (1912)
  30. Keystone "Cops" - The Bangville Police (1913)
  31. Villainy Defined - Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (1913)
  32. The 1st Fatty - Peeping Pete (1913)
  33. Chaplin's First Film - Making a Living (1914)
  34. The Tramp Appears - Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
  35. Creating The Tramp - Mabel's Strange Predicament (1914)
  36. The Movie Dick - Pool Sharks (1915)
  37. The Super Friends - A Film Johnnie (1914)
  38. Two of a Kind - Fox Trot Finesse (1915)
  39. Laurel before Hardy, Hardy before LaurelThe Servant Girl's Legacy (1914)
Hope you enjoy, and thank you!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Slapstick: Laurel before Hardy, Hardy before Laurel

Laurel and Hardy were the first double act to gain worldwide fame through film. Together, they made over 100 movies -- 32 were silent shorts, 23 were feature-length and contained sound. However, each was already well-established before joining as a duo:

Stanley Arthur "Stan" Jefferson [Laurel] was the older of the two. A music-hall understudy to Charlie Chaplin (pre-Keystone), he appeared in over 50 films. Buster Keaton commented on Laurel's talent, "Chaplin wasn't the funniest, I wasn't the funniest, this man was the funniest." Below is an early Larry Semon vehicle, Huns and Hyphens, which features a pre-L&H Laurel.

Oliver "Babe" Hardy, affectionately known as Ollie, began his movie career before Laurel, resulting in over 250 films before their team-up. He was from Georgia, my home (and current) state, but I won't hold that against him. Below is The Servant Girl's Legacy (dir. Arthur Hotaling), a short from 1914 featuring a 22-year-old Hardy.

September Slapstick: Two of a Kind | Fox Trot Finesse (1915)

I'm including Fox Trot Finesse (dir. Maurice Morris) in this Slapstick Series for 3 reasons:
  1. Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Drew were one of the 1st silent film comedy teams.
  2. Sidney was the uncle of John, Lionel, and Ethel Barrymore (and therefore the great-granduncle of Drew Barrymore).
  3. Mrs. Sidney Drew is a spiritual ancestor to the Fake Shemp. Very soon after the death of Drew's 1st wife -- the original Mrs. Sidney Drew (Gladys Rankin) -- he married Lucile McVey, who became the new Mrs. Sidney Drew character.
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew have a joint Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, though I am unsure whether that is for Mrs. Drew #1 or #2.

September Slapstick: The Super Friends | A Film Johnnie (1914)

On this final day of September, I'm posting a couple entries on silent comedy teams -- those two are coming later today.

Before that, I wanted to give a final shout-out to Mack Sennett and his repertory players, specifically Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, and Ford Sterling. They all make an appearance in A Film Johnnie, a meta-movie directed by George Nichols, in which Chaplin visits the Keystone Studios lot. The mayhem that follows is a prelude to the real-life relationship difficulties that soon existed between each of these stars.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Slapstick: The Movie Dick | Pool Sharks (1915)

W.C. Fields (born William Claude Dukenfield) was a comedian, actor, juggler and writer. Despite creating a comic persona as a hard-drinking misanthrope -- while publicly expressing his contempt for dogs, women, and children -- Fields remained a sympathetic and beloved entertainer.

Here is his first film appearance: 1915's Pool Sharks, directed by Edwin Middleton for the Gaumont Film Company.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September Slapstick: Creating The Tramp | Mabel's Strange Predicament (1914)

The first time Chaplin donned his "Tramp" costume: Mabel's Strange Predicament, directed by and starring Mabel Normand. From a 1933 interview, Chaplin recalls The Tramp's inception:
"I was hurriedly told to put on a funny make-up. This time I went to the wardrobe and got a pair of baggy pants, a tight coat, a small derby hat and a large pair of shoes. I wanted the clothes to be a mass of contradictions, knowing pictorially the figure would be vividly outlined on the screen. To add a comic touch, I wore a small mustache which would not hide my expression. My appearance got an enthusiastic response from everyone, including Mr. Sennett. The clothes seemed to imbue me with the spirit of the character. He actually became a man with a soul - a point of view. I defined to Mr. Sennett the type of person he was. He wears an air of romantic hunger, forever seeking death, but his feet won't let him." 
Note that this is not the 1st film appearance of The Tramp, based upon release date -- Kid Auto Races at Venice was released 2 days earlier (on February 7th, 1914).

September Slapstick: The Tramp Appears | Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)

The first film appearance of Charlie Chaplin's famous character, The Tramp.

Note that this was not the first time Chaplin donned the costume - that occurred for the filming of Mabel's Strange Predicament. However, Kid Auto Races at Venice (directed by Henry Lehrman) was released on February 7th, 1914, two days before Mabel's Strange Predicament.

September Slapstick: Chaplin's First Film | Making a Living (1914)

An entire blog series can be created just for the shorts of Charles "Charlie" Chaplin, and I plan to do this for the next month starting with the letter 'C'...maybe I should choose a different time.

Regardless, Chaplin made his film debut in the appropriately titled, Making a Living, playing a swindler and not his lovable tramp character. It was directed by Henry Lehrman and is the 6th of 12 movies featuring Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September Slapstick: The 1st Fatty | Peeping Pete (1913)

Roscoe Conkling "Fatty" Arbuckle. One of the most influential, controversial, and tragic stars from early cinema. He was a mentor to Charlie Chaplin, discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope, signed one of the first million-dollar contracts, was accused (and acquitted) in the rape and accidental killing of Virginia Rappe, had his films banned during the height of his career, and then died of a heart attack at the age of 46.

Below we have the oldest surviving film appearance of Fatty Arbuckle: Peeping Pete, starring Mack Sennett (who also directed) as the movie's titular character. It was released as a split reel along with A Bandit, which also features Arbuckle.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September Slapstick: Villainy Defined | Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (1913)

Barney Oldfield -- 1st car racer to break 60mph on an oval, and later 100mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- is the celebrity focus of the title, but it is Ford Sterling who steals the show, hamming it up as the sneering, mustache-twisting, henchmen-having villain.

This 4th Keystone Cops movie also features Mabel Normand and Mack Sennett, who pulls double-duty as Mabel's boyfriend as well as the film's Director. It contains one of the earliest examples of a young damsel (Normand) tied to the tracks of an oncoming locomotive train. The rescue chase is thrilling, and the ending left me jaw-dropped stunned.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September Slapstick: Keystone "Cops" | The Bangville Police (1913)

I place "Cops" -- sometimes spelled "Kops" -- in quotes only because the officers in The Bangville Police more closely resemble a militia or rural vigilantes instead of the uniformed bumblers of later movies.

Regardless, this is the oldest surviving appearance of the Keystone Cops (Hoffmeyer's Legacy is considered their first appearance, but that film is currently lost), and Mabel Normand steals the show.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September Slapstick: Keystone Mack [Sennett] Daddy | The Water Nymph (1912)

With The Water Nymph (aka The Beach Flirt) -- the very first Keystone Comedy -- begins an era of dominance in movie slapstick by Mack Sennett and his repertory players.

Those who either received their first break in the movie business at Keystone, or rose to prominence therein, include Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Ford Sterling, Gloria Swanson, Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, and Chester Conklin. And, of course, there's the Sennett Bathing Beauties.

P.S. If anyone can find a higher quality version of this film, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

World's Oldest Color Film (just newly discovered)

Here is video of recently discovered footage, considered to be the world's earliest color film:

Additional information about these first color films can be found HERE.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September Slapstick: Laugh With Linder | Troubles of a Grasswidower (1912)

The Golden Age of Slapstick was ushered in by Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle, better known by his stage name and most popular character: Max [Linder]. Widely considered the first international movie star, Linder appeared in over 500 films (100+ as the top-hatted, dandy), and by 1912 was earning a salary of one million francs. Charlie Chaplin called Max "his Professor", and himself "Linder's disciple".

In Troubles of a Grasswidower, which was also directed by Linder, the influence upon Chaplin (and Sennett, Arbuckle, etc.) is easy to see:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Before The Fame | Troublesome Secretaries (1911)

I was very surprised to stumble upon this [incomplete?] movie starring a pre-Keystone Mabel Normand alongside John Bunny, America's 1st major film comedian. This was the first (and only surviving) pairing of these film comedy forebears as Normand left Vitagraph very soon after.

With an alternate title of How Betty Outwitted Her Father, The Troublesome Secretaries also features Ralph Ince -- youngest of three filmmaking brothers -- pulling double-duty as both actor and director.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Comedic Timing | Onésime, Clockmaker (1912)

With the inception of recurring movie characters, Onésime -- portrayed by Ernest Bourbon in 63 different films over the span of just 2 years -- was arguably the most popular from the pre-Keystone era.

However, the star of today's spotlight film is not actually Onésime and his fewer than 2 minutes of onscreen time. That honor instead goes to the city of Paris. Vibrant and alive in triple-time, pre-WWII Paris is captured in hi-speed compositions by Director, Jean Durand.

Also of note: Onésime Horloger was written by heir to the Gaumont director's throne, Louis Feuillade.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How Much Do I Love "The Movies"?

My apologies for slacking on the blog postings recently. It is due in part to this: A Story of Our Hero - To 1930 & Beyond!

Believe it or not, I'm not very good at the whole self-promotion thing, and so I simply ask that you please check out the campaign and, if you like, share it via the wonderful tools we have available to us...and if you can, a contribution would be greatly appreciated. I hope my fellow film fanatics enjoy the names of the perks.

Thank you for all of the support!

Also, the "Slapstick Summer Series" will return on Monday.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Moving On | Alkali Ike's Auto (1911)

Related to yesterday's post, Ike (first 'Alkali Ike', then 'Universal Ike' after the actor moved from Essanay to Universal Studios) was another pre-Tramp/Fatty character portrayed in multiple films -- this time, by Augustus Carney, and in almost 50 different movies.

Alkali Ike's Auto, the first in the series and directed by Essanay co-founder, Broncho Billy Anderson, features Carney's 'Ike' in competition with 'Mustang Pete' (Harry Todd) to win the affections of 'Betty Brown' (Margaret Joslin). In a case of life imitating art, Joslin later married Todd after first being married to Carney!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Character Development | How Bumptious Papered the Parlor (1910)

Before Roscoe was 'Fatty', before Chaplin was 'The Tramp', and before Harold Lloyd was 'Lonesome Luke' (or 'The Boy'), John Cumpson was 'Bumptious', a slapstick character he portrayed in 13 different movies. How Bumptious Papered the Parlor, directed by Ashley Miller, is the oldest surviving of the thirteen. Though lacking the comedic timing of the legends, and despite a career cut short by pneumonia & diabetes, Cumpson earns a spot in film history for his role in ushering in the recurring lead character.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: When Harry Met Zecca | Slippery Jim (1910)

Ferdinand Zecca reportedly came up with the idea for Slippery Jim after reading about the escape acts of Harry Houdini. That inspiration worked out nicely for me as this is my favorite film from 1910. It's visually and structurally closer to films from the early 1910s than to those from the late 1900s, and it is more of a comedic ancestor to Monty Python than to Keystone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Passing the Torch | The Race for the Sausage (1907)

The similarities to The Policemen's Little Run, released earlier the same year, are obvious. Each have their own merits and choosing one over the other ultimately comes down to personal preference.

More significant than the movie itself are the circumstances revolving at the time around the film's production company, Gaumontand co-Directors, Alice Guy and Louis Feuillade. Guy, serving as Gaumont's Artistic Director since 1896, first bought scripts from Feuillade beginning in 1905, and then finally convinced him to give directing a shot as well.

Still, most of the Gaumont films from this period, such as The Race for the Sausage, were either explicitly directed or closely supervised by Guy. In preparation for her upcoming move to the United Stated to serve as Production Manager for Gaumont's New York operations -- and to be with new husband, Herbert Blaché -- Guy was also molding her successor. When the time came for her to bid France a farewell, she suggested Feuillade as her replacement. By late 1907, Guy-Blaché was living on a different continent, and Feuillade was Gaumont's new Artistic Director.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: A Vehicle for Comedy | The '?' Motorist (1906)

Perhaps the most fantastic slapstick of the century's 1st decade, the influence of Melies is obvious [note: R.W. Paul, producer and cinematographer of "The '?' Motorist", built the 1st camera used by Melies].

However, unlike most works by his fellow cinemagician, Walter R. Booth's "Mad Motorist" is not constrained to the theater-style setting. Alternating between studio sets and external shots, the chaos is taken to new heights, literally. Seriously, man, it's out of this world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Don't Sleep on These | The Rolling Bed (1907)

Let's say you're Louis Feuillade and you want to top two previous movies centered around mattress hi-jinks (Guy's The Drunken Mattress and Melies's The Tramp and the Mattress Makers). How would you go about doing this? Why, utilizing the entire bed of course! With the shortest run-time of the three, we are reminded that bigger isn't always better, and in this case, smaller is actually bedder. <- Oh yes, I went there.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Semi-Meta | A Fall from Five Floors (1906)

As one might expect, the pioneers of motion pictures (being photographers themselves) often used the photographing process itself as a plot device within their films. With the evolution of prank-based comedies towards slaptick, a natural transition existed for these meta-ish films to introduce situations whereby the intended targets of still-shots instead remain in motion, resulting in chaos for the cameraman [anyone with kids can easily relate to this dilemma].

Melies was not the first to explore this subject [see Guy's At the Photographer's and two films by Porter: Photographing a Country Couple and The Old Maid Having Her Picture Taken], but his Une chute de cinq étages is surely the most elaborate and entertaining of the bunch. "Toro! Toro!" anyone?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Multilevel Comedy | The Irresistible Piano (1907)

Alice Guy continues her exploration and expansion of the slapstick genre by moving from horizontal space (as utilized in the "chase" films) to vertical space. In Le piano irrésistible, music seeps through walls and ceilings to charm all those within hearing range. On a related note, Guy also worked with up-and-comer Louis Feuillade to provide multi-floored comedy involving the world's worst cleaning man.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Ladies, Please! | Those Awful Hats (1909)

Although rudimentary and often too-easily dismissed, Those Awful Hats is a must-see for all fans of early cinema and film history. Reasons being (in no particular order):
  1. We're treated to a live-action PSA of the famous theater slides which asked women to remove their giant hats so as to not obstruct the view of those behind. (And you thought cell phones were annoying) 
  2. It's not just one of the oldest surviving films directed by D.W. Griffith, it's also one of his rare comedies.
  3. That energetic man with the checkered jacket, top hat, and cane? Yeah, that's Mack Sennett. Three years later he would found a little something known as Keystone Studios.
Besides, that giant hat-grabber is EPIC!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: The 1st Pie Face | Mr. Flip (1909)

Mr. Flip, played by cross-eyed comedian, Ben Turpin, is quite the ladies' man...and by "ladies' man", I mean borderline sexual harasser who constantly receives his just desserts [sp]. Speaking of which, this film (directed by Gilbert M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson) includes the earliest known use of the pie-in-the-face bit in a movie.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Vaudevillians | Robetta and Doretto, No. 2 (1895)

Short recording of 1890s vaudeville slapstick act, "Robetta and Doretto", performing one of their routines (Chinese Laundry Scene). It's funny that even in these plot-less few seconds we glimpse elements familiar from the earliest slapstick movies.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Outside The Tableau | Chimney Sweep (1906)

Terribly slow beginning, but notable for the chase sequence beginning at the 8:10 mark and featuring some of the very few external shots by Méliès.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Timeless | A Very Fine Lady (1908)

A beautiful woman causes mayhem with weak-willed men (some things never change). Add a laugh track and Louis Feuillade's Une dame vraiment bien could be a modern "Hidden Camera" TV-show. But what's up with the ending?!?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: A Step Back | The Runaway Horse (1908)

Of historical importance for being among the group of early chase films. Not the best of the bunch - old-fashioned pacing takes much of the blame for this - but not bad either. Louis J. Gasnier's Le cheval emballé also contains a unique reverse-action shot, which may have been the first of its kind used during a chase sequence.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: A Killer Joke | That Fatal Sneeze (1907)

Under-appreciated gem by Lewin Fitzhamon about an elderly man caught in a powerful sneezing fit as a result of retaliatory pepper from a whipper-snapper he mildly pranked at the film's beginning.

The humorous effects are creative and crescendo appropriately to the grand finale.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Key Stepping Stone | The Policemen's Little Run (1907)

The first intersection of chase movies with slapstick - The Policeman's Little Run (aka La Course des Sergents de Ville, literally "The Run of the Village Constables"), directed by Ferdinand Zecca.

Preceding the Keystone Cops by 6 years, this slapstick-chase also includes a surprising trick-film sequence for added measure. The wall-climbing effect was previously done by Georges Méliès (and later by Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman & Robin), but here its impact is amplified by the scrolling camera.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series: Exhibit E. Porter | Getting Evidence (1906)

Not just an early example of well-executed slapstick, but overall a truly wonderful film - one which seems much more modern than expected, thanks primarily to the skilled direction of Edwin S. Porter. The multiple vignettes offer a nice variety of humorous scenarios, many of which contain superb shot compositions far above what was common for the time.

And, for some reason, I can’t help but imagine Peter Sellers and David Niven in the lead roles.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series! - A Story Well Spun (1906), Pre-Iconic

A lesser-known work from the world's first female filmmaker, but one which is expertly filmed and a herald of things to come. From the start we see a Tramp-ish character as the lead, immediately pulling our mind toward Chaplin. We are then treated to an excellent chase-less chase sequence almost a decade before The Keystone Cops popularized chase films as a genre. The "stunts", primarily created with the stop-edit replacement tricks standard for the time, are of the type that Buster Keaton would later perform without the proverbial safety-net.

Bonus: Try to spot the man pushing the barrel on the railroad tracks at the 0:50 mark. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series! - An Interesting Story (1904), The 1st True Slapstick

Directed by James Williamson, An Interesting Story shows a man so engrossed in reading a book that his time is spent dangerously oblivious to everything else happening around him. It is generally considered to be the world's 1st slapstick film.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series! - The Fat and Lean Wrestling Match (1900), Wrestling w/ Melies

This film, like yesterday's, also is not considered to be the 1st slapstick movie...but in this case, I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps this is due to the physical comedy occurring only in an unexpected (and extreme) manner, but not not in an unexpected setting? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Awesome Pulp Fiction "Remix" ... is Awesome

Say "what?" again!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Slapstick Summer Series! - The Sprinkler Sprinkled (1895), 1st Movie Comedy

Though not slapstick, strictly-speaking, Lumière's The Sprinkler Sprinkled (aka L'Arroseur Arrosé and The Waterer Watered) earns the starting spot in this summer series for three main reasons:
  1. It's the 1st comedy film.
  2. What's more Summer-y than sprinkling sprinklers?
  3. The film's alliterative English name compliments the blog title.
Thus begins the Summer of Slapstick, which will contain the early shorts of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Max Linder, Ford Sterling and the Keystone Cops, and other surprises.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 6] - Indiscreet Questions (1906)

Felix Mayol performs Indiscreet Questions (by A. Trebitsch & G. de Nola / G. Maquis) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Mayol, who was then filmed "lip singing". Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lois Weber - America's 1st Female Filmmaker

Born on this day in 1879, Lois Weber was a child prodigy pianist and silent film pioneer - an actress, screenwriter, producer, and director (the 1st woman as such in the United States) of over 100 known films. As a progressive activist, Weber's movies often contained her ideals of social justice, which included support for women's rights and birth control, as well as opposition towards censorship and the death penalty.

Her films are also known for being technically and narratively advanced for the time, groundbreaking in their usage and advancement of existing film language. One such example is the pre-Hitchcockian Suspense, directed in 1913 by Weber, below with a piano score by the lovely and talented Robbie Kaye from Beauty and Wisdom.

That Weber has been largely forgotten with the passage of time is as much a tragedy as the final years in her own life. I hope this changes and she begins to receive a more recognized and deserving place in history.

Pixar Marvel Superheroes

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 5] - White Lilacs (1905)

Felix Mayol performs White Lilacs (Lilas Blanc, by Theodore Botrel) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Mayol, who was then filmed "lip singing". Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 4] - The Trottins Polka (1905)

Felix Mayol performs The Trottins Polka (La Polka des Trottins, by A. Trebitsch and H. Christine) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Mayol, who was then filmed "lip singing". Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 3] - Five O'Clock Tea (1905)

Armand Dranem Performs Five O'Clock Tea (by J. Combe / D. Berniaux) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Dranem, who was then filmed "lip singing". Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 2] - The True Jiu-Jitsu (1905)

Armand Dranem performs The True Jiu-Jitsu (Le Vrai Jiu-Jitsu, by P. Briollet & G. Fabri / C. D'Orviet) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Dranem, who was then filmed "lip singing". Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Original Music Videos of Alice Guy [part 1] - The Anatomy of a Draftee (1905)

Polin performs The Anatomy of a Draftee (L'Anatomie du Conscrit, by E. Rimbault and E. Spencer) in this phonoscene by Alice Guy. This early form of music video was created using a chronophone recording of Polin, who was then filmed "lip singing". Guy would film phonoscenes of all three major Belle Époque celebrities in France: Polin, Félix Mayol, and Dranem.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury, The Illustrious Man

"The things that you do should be things that you love. And things that you love should be things that you do." - Ray Douglas Bradbury, (1920 - 2012)

A Brief History of Video Games

An abridged history of video games in under three minutes. Made using only sounds, music, and video from the games themselves.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jollification! The Mary Pickford Blogathon

This past weekend, Classic Movies: The Blog hosted a Mary Pickford blogathon. In addition to being a lovely event containing many beautiful posts and informative links about "America's Sweetheart", the below music video I created was also graciously included, for which I am honored. Thanks KC!

Classic Movies: The Blog, on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Days of Melies - Faust in Hell [Faust aux enfers] (1903)

Often misidentified as the 1898 Méliès film, The Damnation of Faust, which is presumed lost. Faust in Hell is instead a 15-scene epic that introduces some excellent new tricks, such as the descent beginning at the 4:48 mark. The scenes as described in the Melies catalog are as follows:

1. The Route to the Depths of Perdition (a Dazzingly Sensational New Effect.)
2. The Fantastical Ride.
3. The Gloomy Pass.
4. The Stream.
5. The Entrance to the Lower Regions.
6. The Marvelous Grottoes (tableau with six dissolving Scenes.)
7. The Crystal Stalactites
8. The Devil's Hole
9. The Ice Cavern.
10. The Goddesses of Antiquity (a Superb Fantastical Ballet in a Snowstorm.)
11. The Subterranean Cascade (a New Trick with Apparition in a Waterfall.)
12. The Nymphs of the Underworld.--The Seven Headed Hydra--The Demons--The Struggle of Water with Fire (a big Novelty.)
13. The Descent to Satan's Domain (a clever trick now first shown.)
14. The Furnace.
15. The Triumph of Mephistopheles

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May Days of Melies - Ten Ladies in One Umbrella [La parapluie fantastique] (1903)

One possible theory about this work which makes it more than just a well-executed trick film: the 10 ladies under a single umbrella could be symbolic of the potential for peace within a unified Europe, led by their 10 most prominent nations at the time. Notice the variations in the original set of "maiden" costumes. Perhaps before the film print deteriorated over time, we could have more easily differentiated between the specific countries represented. Color would have also been beneficial.

Regardless, did Méliès foreshadow the European Union? Or are things simply as they appear on the surface - a fun movie with an arbitrary number of beautiful ladies. Note that the women's dresses each become modernized and conformed between each other near the end, but before that happens, their garb is briefly changed to that of antiquity, eliciting a bow of praise from Melies. Then, before making his own dramatic exit, Melies conjures a sign that reads, "Galathea Theatre". This is a reference to the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his statue of Galatea, and was eventually granted a wish (thanks to the goddess, Venus): the ivory sculpture was brought to life as a woman of flesh and blood.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Apparitions [Le revenant] (1903)

Comical "ghost tale" by Méliès that uses the blurred, out-of-focus superimposition trick to creepy effect. Also of interest is the subtle symbolism invoked from the lodger's rebuffed advancements towards the maid, followed by the candlestick that won't sit still, grows much larger, and distracts until its flame finally seizes the man's full attention. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Infernal Caldron [Le chaudron infernal] (1903)

So much to enjoy and appreciate in this one: the striking colors (especially the flames and demon green), the devilishly macabre subject matter, and the Méliès special effects. The coolest tricks involve fireball spirits that become ash and the use of out-of-focus superimposition to create the most visually-impressive ghosts in film up to this point.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Monster [Le monstre] (1903)

As equally impressive as the tricks and charismatic showmanship of Méliès are his sets and costume design. The backdrop on display here has a magical scope, depth, and detail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Melomaniac [Le mélomane] (1903)

Méliès takes his detachable head game, as previously seen in The Four Troublesome Heads and The Man with the India Rubber Head, to the next level as Le mélomane (aka The Music Lover). Curiously, the notes selected can be considered the opening to the United Kingdom anthem, God Save the King/Queen (and in the United States, My Country, 'Tis of Thee, aka, America). One can wonder if this was intentional by the Frenchman, and whether it was perhaps a nod to the other two pioneering nations in cinema at the time along with France: the USA and England.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Witch's Revenge [Le sorcier] (1903)

A King is blessed to have fulfilled the fantasy of many men and women: a sorcerer to summon a beautiful mate (with accompanying handmaidens), just for him. But he blows it, of course, after being offended by one of the magician's follow-up tricks in which the throne is temporarily occupied by someone other than himself. Psssh, men. Typical.

You're vs. Your + Louis C.K. + Bill Hicks

The Gotye cover/parody has pretty much ran its course, but this gets a pass due to subject matter + Louis C.K. shirt * Bill Hicks wall art.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Drawing Lesson [La statue animée] (1903)

The Drawing Lesson, originally The Animated Statue (La statue animée), has value primarily and simply due to being one of the surviving works of the master cinemagician, Méliès.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Inn Where No Man Rests [L'auberge du bon repos] (1903)

Very recognizable refrain for those familiar with the movies of Méliès. Though the subject matter of The Inn Where No Man Rests (L'auberge du bon repos) does not break new ground, and the execution of the tricks are all easy to imagine, the film is still creative, quirky, and enjoyable.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Enchanted Well [Le puits fantastique] (1903)

The Enchanted Well (Le puits fantastique) contains one of the greatest inanimate movie villains this side of Requiem for a Dream. Per usual, Méliès is a devilish delight.

May Days of Melies - The Mysterious Box [La boîte à malice] (1903)

"Simple", yet effective, trick film by Méliès involving a magic box (la boîte à malice) that would make Santa Claus envious.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Infernal Cakewalk [Le cake-walk infernal] (1903)

The Cakewalk dance was developed at plantation get-togethers by slaves in the southern United States. Thereafter it was performed in minstrel shows, exclusively by men at first. After a performance of the Cakewalk in a competition at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, an enormous cake was awarded to the winning couple, thus the phrase, "takes the cake".

Plot summary of the movie per the original Méliès catalogue:
"Pluto, having seen the earth, comes back home amazed at the success of that well-known dance, the 'cake-walk.' He has brought back with him two noted well-known dancers, who start their favorite dance amidst the flames. A queer and ugly being wishes also to join in the dance, but his limbs break away and dance far from him. All the subjects of His Majesty are seized with the irresistible mania for dancing, and start an unbridled provincial dance. At this sight Satan starts out of the earth a large blaze, which annihilates everything around him, disappearing himself through the flames. This view has beautiful new effects and much improves with colors. For the first time in a cinematograph view one can see some of the will-o'-the-wisp wandering among human beings. The effect is magical."

May Days of Melies - Misfortune Never Comes Alone [Un malheur n'arrive jamais seul] (1903)

Méliès takes a short break from special effects laden trick-films to explore his slapstick side a bit further. The detail in the set is as impressive as ever.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Marvellous Wreath [La guirlande merveilleuse] (1903)

Quite elaborate stage magic on display in The Marvellous Wreath (aka La guirlande merveilleuse). Méliès utilizes his full bag of tricks to create a unique and quirky routine.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May Days of Melies - Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants [Le voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants] (1902)

A swift (4-minute) adaptation of Gulliver's Travels (formally, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships), the 1726 satirical novel by Jonathan Swift. The movie is less focused on developing the plot as a narrative, and more attentive towards recreating and presenting some of the fantastic elements within the story, as alluded to by the title, Le voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants (aka Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants). The visual accomplishments of Méliès are most impressive, especially the amazing hand-painting of frames. 

Music performed by Billy Duncan for Change Before Going Productions

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Treasures of Satan [Les trésors de satan] (1902)

The treasures of Satan appear as bags of money which the devil (Méliès) hides inside a coffin. When a thief attempts to rob the coins, the moneybags come alive and are soon accompanied by beautiful women! Unfortunately, the fulfilled fantasy is short-lived as the bags held by the ladies become sharp spears, and then the devil reappears to claim his true treasure.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Shadow Girl [La clownesse fantôme] (1902)

Méliès demonstrates that he possesses some magical items able to quickly and painlessly perform sex changes.

May Days of Melies - The Dancing Midget [La danseuse microscopique] (1902)

In The Dancing Midget (aka La danseuse microscopique), Méliès makes his foppish assistant regurgitate 6 whole eggs, which are then cracked into a magic hat and turned into a single, larger egg. When the new egg explodes, what springs forth? Why, a tiny ballerina of course!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Colonel's Shower Bath [La douche du colonel] (1902)

Méliès takes a short cinematic break from his "trick" movies to provide a bit of comic relief. Take note of the depth and detail in the set background.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Dwarf and the Giant [Nain et géant] (1901)

Méliès duplicates himself, and then the duplicate (or is it the original?) grows to an enormous size. 

RIP Maurice Sendak, The King of all Wild Things

"We’ve educated children to think that spontaneity is inappropriate. Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren’t. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they’re really protecting themselves. Besides, you can’t protect children. They know everything." - Maurice Sendak

Monday, May 7, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Devil and the Statue [Le diable géant ou Le miracle de la madonne] (1901)

The Devil and the Statue or, The Miracle of the Madonna (aka Le diable géant ou Le miracle de la madonne) progresses the new re-sizing trick which Méliès unveiled in The Man with the Rubber Head.

May Days of Melies - The Man with the India Rubber Head [L'homme à la tête en caoutchouc] (1901)

Méliès unveils a new trick in The Man with the India Rubber Head (aka L'homme à la tête en caoutchouc). A scientist (mad?) brings forth a living head he's been storing in a box; a head that happens to be identical to the scientist (a clone?). Méliès then begins the new magic by blowing up the head, first with an expansion/contraction, and then literally.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Hat with Many Surprises [Le chapeau à surprises] (1901)

Méliès explores a familiar theme among magicians: the hat trick. You won't see a rabbit pulled forth, but the alternatives presented are far more spectacular.

May Days of Melies - Bluebeard [Barbe-bleue] (1901)

Bluebeard (aka Barbe-bleue) by Georges Méliès, adapted from the French folktale of the same name by Charles Perrault, contains the oldest known example of product placement in a movie. Keep an eye out for Mercier champagne!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Days of Melies - Excelsior! The Prince of Magicians (1901)

For the most part, Méliès reveals in this film nothing new from his bag of tricks, but those he does revisit are used to perfection.

Never Give Up: Arthur's Inspirational Transformation!

Arthur Boorman is a disabled United States veteran of the Gulf War and was told by doctors that he would never again walk on his own without assistance. He stumbled upon an article about low-impact yoga - in this case, DDP Yoga (named for professional wrestler-turned-fitness guru, "Diamond" Dallas Page) - and decided to give it a shot.

This short video shows the incredible story of what happened. I hope it brings some inspiration to your day.

May Days of Melies - The Bachelor's Paradise [Chez la sorcière] (1901)

In The Bachelor's Paradise (aka Chez la sorcière aka The Witch's Home), a young man employs the talents of a witch to conjure a selection of beautiful women for his choosing as a mate. Méliès of course allows the appropriate twisting of desires.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Magician's Cavern [L'antre des esprits] (1901)

In The Magician's Cavern (aka L'antre des esprits aka The Spirits' Lair), Méliès shows off his full bag of cinematic tricks learned thus far, including stop-cut replacement edits, superimpositions, and dissolves. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May Days of Melies - Extraordinary Illusions [Dislocation mystérieuse] (1901)

The appropriately-named Extraordinary Illusions (aka Dislocation mystérieuse aka An Extraordinary Dislocation) features Méliès as a clown with the ability to detach his head and limbs, each of which develops a life of its own. This short also features the oldest existing appearance of a backdrop that Melies would use many more times, most famously in The Infernal Cakewalk.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Brahmin and the Butterfly [La chrysalide et le papillon d'or] (1901)

The film begins with a snake-charming (or more accurately, a giant caterpillar-charming) where the caterpillar enters the basket instead of vice-versa, foreshadowing the twist to come. With the arrival of the beautiful butterfly, the Brahmin then becomes powerless against her charms.

The emergence of the butterfly woman originated in a piece of stage magic by Buatier de Kolta that dates from 1885, making it very likely that Méliès witnessed a live performance of the work. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Days of Melies - What is Home Without the Boarder? [La maison tranquille] (1901)

A film by many names: La maison tranquille (the original French), The Peaceful House (literal translation), What is Home Without the Boarder (most common English name), and Troubles in a Tenement House (as listed by IMDB and Wikipedia). It utilizes the 2-story, split-level set previously featured in The Doctor and the Monkey. The action is pure anarchy...and it is glorious. A Méliès movie by any name is still a Méliès. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – 3 Tinted Dances

Guy continues her Spanish exploration with three hand-tinted films showing the tango, flamenco, and bolero dancing styles:

The Tango [Le Tango]

The Malaguena and the Bullfighter [La malagueña et le torero]

Saharet Performs the Bolero [Madame Saharet, boléro]