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.

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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

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.

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 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 – 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.

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.