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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Alice Guy, 1st Female Filmmaker – Surprise Attack on a House at Daybreak [Surprise d’une maison au petit jour] (1898)

The appropriately titled Surprise Attack on a House at Daybreak (aka House Ambushed at Dawn) by Alice Guy-Blaché begins rather shockingly, and then the action continues all the way through the final frames.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1612582/

March Melies Madness! – Eight Girls in a Barrel [Le tonneau des danaïdes] (1900)

In Eight Girls in a Barrel (aka Le tonneau des danaïdes, aka The Dainaid’s Barrel) Georges Méliès has fun with 8 women. And a barrel. The original French title references a Greek myth where forty-nine of the fifty daughters of King Danaus (i.e. the Danaids) were sentenced to fill bottomless barrels with water for all eternity as a punishment.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0227668/

March Melies Madness! – The Wizard, the Prince and the Good Fairy [Le sorcier, le prince et le bon génie] (1900)

The Wizard, the Prince and the Good Fairy (aka Le sorcier, le prince et le bon génie) contains the standard bag of tricks, such as stop-cut replacement editing, utilized during the time period by Méliès. Unique in this film is the framing of the slightly angled shot for the set, which allows for a larger-than-normal area of action.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0227527/