Slapstick Summer Series: Laugh Olympics | An Obstacle Course (1906)

In honor of tonight’s Opening Ceremonies — Guy’s Une course d’obstacle.

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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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.