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: The Original Queen of Comedy | Laughing Gas (1907)

Significant not just for having the comedic lead portrayed by a woman, but also a woman of color. Bertha Regustus, listed on IMDB with just a single movie credit, is a delight in this film directed by Edwin S. Porter.

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.

1st Time Shift in Film

Pan-American Exposition by Night (1901) – Edwin S. Porter

Pan-American Exposition by Night features the 1st switch from Day to Night in a single, exterior setting. The switch takes place during mid-pan, which shows all the buildings from the Temple of Music to the Electric Tower.