I guess Batman and Catwoman hooked up after all. (via Dangerous Minds.)
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
I’m including Fox Trot Finesse (dir. Maurice Morris) in this Slapstick Series for 3 reasons:
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.
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).