The Haunted Gallery

The Haunted Gallery

What fabulous book cover this is. I’d buy the book purely on the strength of the picture – in fact I just have. The image is a 1901 poster for the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, taken from the copyright collection of The National Archives. Biograph’s 70mm films were a special feature of the Palace Theatre in London (still active today, currently showing Spamalot), and Biograph programmes generally featured news items – hence the full slogan on the screen (which is obscured on the book cover), ‘The Biograph Reproduces the Latest Events from All Parts of the World’.

But the book within is no less of a treasure. The subject of The Haunted Gallery: Painting, Photography, Film c.1900 is how the moving picture changed visual culture at the end of nineteenth century. Lynda Nead is an art and cultural historian, whose first foray into film history this is. Although the subtitle implies equal coverage of painting and photography, the motion picture takes centre stage, but is set into new and exciting contexts by demonstrating its effects alongside the whole range of contemporary visual media, including painting, photography, stage magic, the magic lantern, posters and even astronomy.

The result is a giddyingly rich brew of evidence and analysis, all expounding a shift in visual culture from stasis to motion, which in turn altered modes of perception and ushered in our modern world. The book’s title comes from a characteristic Nead use of the visual as metaphor: an illustration of the Haunted Gallery at Hampton Gallery, which she describes thus:

A space for pictures and for ghosts, the gallery is also for endless pacing watched by portraits of generations of the dead. It is a place of presences but not life, of likenesses which seem real but which are merely representations or figments of the imagination. The picture gallery is also a place of alternating light and darkness; it is a narrow apartment illuminated by shifts of light cast by unseen objects obliterating the light … How apt that the shadows cast on the ceiling by the windows and tapestried walls look like a strip of film, with intermittent, spaced-out picture frames, separated by short intervals of blank darkness. Set this sequence in motion and the enchantment begins; the pictures come to life and the ghosts haunt the gallery.

Nead finds in the haunted gallery a powerful metaphor for the ‘uncanny magic’ of early film. Typically she finds multiple analogues for this concept, from Edison and Biograph advertising films of ancestors climbing down from portraits on the wall to drink Dewar’s Whisky, to similar Scottish ancestors doing much the same in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Ruddigore, to Georges Méliès’ films The Living Playing Cards and The Mysterious Portrait, to tableaux vivant, to the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea (the statue that came to life). It all interconnects.

It certainly helps if you can see the pictures, and the book is richly illustrated throughout, sometimes enthralling so. Themes covered include the wheel and movement, representation of the everyday and the detective camera, the vision of mobility generated by the new-fangled motor car, the strip (the film strip, the cartoon strip and the striptease), and the astronomical imagination. This latter section looks at visions of the heavens (by way of serpentine dances, G.F. Watts, electricity and the Paris 1900 Exhibition), including some startling examples of astronomical photography spilling over into the imaginative world, represented in particular by Camille Flammarion, the French astronomer, author and astronomical filmmaker, whose 1872 novel Lumen describes all-seeing beings who view the passing of a time as a ray of light, in a constant relay of images. Metaphors, metaphors everywhere.

The best image comes last – a map of the procession through London taken to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee on 22 June 1897 (filmed by many cameramen), marked with bright yellow explosion symbols to mark where Martian explosions occur as recorded in H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, published in the same year. However, it’s not all image and metaphor, and there’s a good deal of practical understanding of the production of images (still and moving) underpinning the theoretical stuff. The moving images make sense on a practical level as well as an imaginative one.

As with Jonathan Auerbach’s Body Shots, covered in a recent post, here is someone from outside the usual early film studies coterie, looking on the subject with fresh eyes and leading it into a broader cultural world, demonstrating bold analogies and connections, inviting in those from other disciplines to see how film was integral to a change in consciousness in the late-Victorian/early-Edwardian era. Both publications have enriched our field. I feel that the Bioscope may have to expand, to become just that little bit more metaphorical, if it is properly to represent its subject in its contexts. We’ll see.

Silent cinema in Tamil

I’ve just seen notice of this publication, a history of world silent cinema written in Tamil, reported on by The Hindu newspaper. It seems worth noting, for the record. Here’s the review:

ULAGA CINEMA VARALAARU — Mouna Yugam (Silent Period): Ajayan Bala; KK Books Pvt. Ltd.,

19, Srinivas Reddy Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 150.

A WELCOME publication in Tamil, most likely the first of its kind, narrating the interesting history of world cinema during the period December 1895 to October 1927 being the silent age when many purists and diehard conservatives sincerely felt that the medium would not last long. Ajayan Bala who is involved in many a capacity in cinema has narrated interestingly the fascinating true story of the founding, growth and development of silent film around the world, including India. Today there is great awareness about film history in this part of the country and this book will go a long way in filling the virtual vacuum that exists.

The book is well illustrated with thumbnail photographs, which adds to its attraction and utility.

The author is currently working on more volumes to continue his in-depth study and writing of the later exciting periods of world cinema. Economically priced, this book is a must read for Tamil readers who wish to know the fascinating tale of international cinema. The publishers also deserve to be congratulated besides the author for planning and publishing such a book.

There will be silents

The Story of Petroleum

The Story of Petroleum, from

An intriguing small news piece for you. The forthcoming DVD release (Collector’s Edition) of the Paul Thomas Anderson film There Will Be Blood, on the birth of the American oil industry, will include The Story of Petroleum among its extras.

This 25mins documentary dates from c.1923 and was produced at the behest of the US Bureau of Mines and the Sinclair Oil Company (nothing to do with Upton Sinclair, whose novel Oil! forms the basis on Anderson’s film). It shows operations of the American oil industry at the time (There Will Be Blood is set in the 1890s), and comes with a score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who also scored the main feature film. The film was presumably remade or updated from time to time, as the BFI National Archive has copies dating from 1920 and 1928. It is a typical example of the semi-instructional semi-propagandist films produced by industrial concerns for the burgeoning non-theatrical market from the 1920s onwards.

The DVD (Collector’s Edition) of There Will Be Blood is released in the UK on 8 April.

Motion pictures

Execution of Czolgosz

Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison (1901)

This gentle, business-like image comes from one of the most discussed and notorious of early films, Edison’s Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison (1901). Leon F. Czolgosz was the assassin of President William McKinley, and Edwin S. Porter and James White journeyed to Auburn Prison in upstate New York, reportedly with the hope of filming Czolgosz’s actual execution in the electric chair. Happily they were rebuffed, but they filmed the outside of the prison on the day of the execution, then back at the studio the Edison team dramatised the scene that had taken place inside, and cut the films together.

Should you wish to, you can see the film on the Library of Congress’ American Memory site, which supplies this original catalogue description:

A detailed reproduction of the execution of the assassin of President McKinley faithfully carried out from the description of an eye witness. The picture is in three scenes. First: Panoramic view of Auburn Prison taken the morning of the electrocution. The picture then dissolves into the corridor of murderer’s row. The keepers are seen taking Czolgosz from his cell to the death chamber, and shows State Electrician, Wardens and Doctors making final test of the chair. Czolgosz is then brought in by the guard and is quickly strapped into the chair. The current is turned on at a signal from the Warden, and the assassin heaves heavily as though the straps would break. He drops prone after the current is turned off. The doctors examine the body and report to the Warden that he is dead, and he in turn officially announces the death to the witness. Class B 200 ft. $24.00

So much that is complex, problematic, mysterious, engrossing and unique about the motion picture is bound up in this short film; in its production, reception and subsequent critical understanding. What exactly does it signify? What is the relationship between the actuality footage and the dramatised? How ‘real’ is it? How do we understand the figure of Czolgosz from what is presented to us? Why did audiences want to see the film, and what exactly did they see in it? It is these mysteries, and in particular the presence of the human body in motion, trailing all kinds of ‘anxieties and preoccupations’ with it, that forms the subject of a new book on early cinema, Jonathan Auerbach’s Body Shots: Early Cinema’s Incarnations, which places the Czolgosz film on its front cover.

Body Shots

It’s an inelegant title, but a compelling work – quite the best book on early film that I’ve read in ages. Its argument is not one you can summarise easily. Auerbach’s interest is in the earliest years of film before narrative took hold, when the signification of these figures in motion is not straightforward. He does not put forward an all-encompassing theory, but rather raises questions and demonstrates the complexity of an audience’s understanding of the figure in motion. In doing so, he rather lays into the dominant theory in this field, the ‘cinema of attractions’, promoted by Tom Gunning and André Gaudreault in the mid-1980s, and cited religiously by countless students and scholars of early cinema ever since. The theory (to use Auerbach’s words) “posits early films and filmmaking as a mode of showing that privileged immediate shock and sensation over narrative continuity and integration”. So, variety acts, exotic scenes, hand-painted colour, magic tricks – spectacle over story.

I doubt that Gunning himself would say that his should be a theory to explain all film before 1906, but it has become an orthodoxy, as Auerbach states, and he’ll have none of it. For him it is too cosy a solution, too tidy an explanation of what should be perplexing, uncertain territory. He finds the evidence provided by specific films, in their specific contexts, and it is close readings of just a handful of actuality (or pseudo-actuality) films that makes the book such an engrossing read.

Perhaps the book’s tour de force is the chapter on McKinley at Home – Canton, O (1896). This brief film shows the Republican candidate for the presidency, William McKinley, walking across his garden and receiving a telegram, before walking with a companion of out frame. Auerbach tell us the history of McKinley’s campaign (he made a virtue of staying at home), the film’s production (McKinley’s brother was on the board of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company which made the film), its promotion, interpretations of the film at the time (the message he was receiving could be interpreted how you wished), the participatory nature of its reception (audiences reacting vocally to what they saw on the screen), and the film’s enthusiastic reception by a press largely dedicated to the Republican cause. Four years later, he would be assassinated, and the chapter concludes with a more speculative reading of Execution of Czolgosz.

Auerbach demonstrates the range of strategies and meanings that can underlie such a simple seeming actuality as McKinley at Home. Of course, not all films of the 1890s may yield such a rich contextual history, but it is the potential for such contexts that matters – that, and the relationship between film and audience, each operating in their own particular sphere. None of the profusion of ideas that Auerbach brings to his interpretation of McKinley at Home, Execution of Czolgosz, early Edison and Lumière actualities, The May Irwin Kiss, The Big Swallow, Personal or The Life of an American Fireman seems forced or inappropriate. The themes he takes on include the visualisation of sound, the emergence of the chase movie as proto-narrative, and finally a Barthesian meditation on death and early film, when such bodies cease to move.

The great appeal of early cinema is its receptivity to ideas, its status as a period when no one can be certain of what is going on, just as Auerbach says about the early actualities themselves:

… volition and animation are often at odds rather than coterminous, a fact that gives these early moving images a peculiar kind of affect, suggesting neither filmmakers nor viewers nor bodies on-screen quite knew what to make of or do with themselves. Hence their interest for me.

It seems a new generation of theorists is coming to the field (Auerbach’s background is in literary studies) and dragging early cinema forward or back into the many worlds to which it belongs. Body Shots is not an easy read, but then neither is it a difficult one. It makes films that you may not have seen nevertheless visible, and makes you want to look again with sharper eyes at those you do know. I may not have explained it terribly well, but I do recommend it.

Early anime discovered

Chibisuke Monogatari

Issun-boshi: Chibisuke Monogatari (Tiny Chibisuke’s Big Adventure) (1935) © Digital Meme

The National Film Center, Toyko, has announced the discovery of two anime films from the silent era. Given the fact that less than 4% of Japanese films made before 1945 still exist, any such discovery, as brief as these titles are, is heartening news.

Anime might be thought of as a modern phenomenon, but the history of Japanese film animation stretches back to the early silent era. Soon after American and European animation films were first seen in Japan, around 1914, Japanese filmmakers were imitating them and coming up with their own distinctive native style.

The two films that have been uncovered (they were found in good condition in an Osaka antique store) are Junichi Kouichi’s Nakamura Katana (1917), a two-minute tale of a samurai tricked into buying a dull-edged sword; and Seitaro Kitayama’s Urashima Taro (1918), based on a folk tale in which a fisherman is transported to a fantastic underwater world on the back of a turtle.

There’s a little more information in a Reuter’s report, but no images or clips just yet.

If you are keen to see what silent anime looks like, the enterprising Japanese publisher Digital Meme sells a four-DVD box set, Japanese Anime Classic Collection, which features examples from 1928 onwards, some with benshi narration (the Japanese actor/presenters who explained the stories of films to audiences and who enjoyed stardom in their own right). Digital Meme retails a number of Japanese silents on DVD with benshi accompaniment as a special feature, and I’ll put together a post some time soon about these and the world of the benshi.

World’s first sound recording


Phonoautogram, from

Well, this item fails our criteria on two counts – it’s not about cinema, and it’s not silent. But it’s relevant, so here goes.

It was announced today that researchers have uncovered the world’s first sound recording, dating from 9 April 1860, an astonishing seventeen years before Thomas Edison received the patent for his Phonograph. The recording was created by something called a Phonoautograph, and the recording itself is a Phonoautogram. The Phonoautograph was designed to create a visual record of sounds. Invented by the Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, the device comprised a barrel-shaped horn connected to a stylus, which etched impressions of sound waves onto sheets of paper which has been blackened with soot. There was no means of playing back the recording. It was a visual record of sound designed for analysis.

The recording is a ten-second burst of the song Au Clair de la Lune, sung by an unidentified female. You can hear it (all ten seconds of it), and discover the background to its discovery and the ingenious use of optical imaging technology by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California that reconstituted the sound in a New York Times article.

Or just click here for the MP3 file.

So it’s the world’s earliest known sound recording, but is it a true sound recording if it could not be played at the time? Surely the invention is only complete with the full realisation of the technology; that is, when Edison combined both sound recoding and playback, the earliest playable example of which (part of a Handel oratario) dates from 1878. And this is where the relevance bit comes in, because we face exactly the same dilemma with motion pictures. Eadweard Muybridge first photographed motion in sequence in 1878, and we can reconstitute such images to display motion. They look like movies, but at the time they never moved. Etienne-Jules Marey photographed humans and animals in sequence from 1882 onwards, soon to be followed by other chronophotographers, but his purpose was the same as Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville – analysis. Yet we can convert these film strips (Marey used celluloid) into fleeting semblances of motion. Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince took perfectly serviceable motion pictures (on paper) in 1888, but much as he wanted to he was not able to project them.

So we award the laurels to Edison and to Lumière for having brought together the full package. Or so I’ve always argued. Now I don’t know. It seems to me that Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (great name) achieved the essential business first – to capture sound. Being able to play it back was secondary – desirable, of course, but ultimately an inevitable follow-up that would just take a little bit longer to achieve (in his case, 148 years). So, on that basis, Edison and Lumière came last. They realised, but it was others who pioneered. Stand up Eadweard, the laurels are yours.

Debate, anyone?

Muybridge 1878

Muybridge’s photographs of a horse in motion, from Scientific American 19 October 1878

The horse in animation


Here’s something intriguing, if somewhat on the fringes of our subject. Rufus Butler Seder’s Gallop! is a very young children’s book, just published, which employs a patented technology, Scanimation. This shows animal figures as a kind of barcode-like strip. The animals move when you open a new page by pulling a scrambled underlying image which lies beneath an acetate strip marked with horizontal bars. Essentially, like silhouetted animations of Muybridge sequence photographs, we see a horse gallop, a chicken walk, a dog run, a cat leap.

The similarity to Muybridge’s work is very noticeable. Seder is described as being “an inventor, artist, and filmmaker fascinated by antique optical toys” and a description of the process points out that it

uses a technology based on the same principles as kinetoscopes, zoetropes, and other nineteenth century antiques that employed an optical illusion using the persistence of memory to create the flow of motion.

(Some confusion over technologies there, but I like the Dali-inspired term persistence of memory over the standard persistence of vision)

It’s not really possible to put over exactly how it looks, so I recommend checking out the children’s section of your local bookshop for the full effect, but Seder’s Eye Think Inc. site displays something of the effect, as in this animated GIF:


It’s an intriguing invention, though one suspects that adults are going to be more diverted by the effect than children. Maybe it might register more if it could only generate the effect in colour. But for us it’s a useful illustration of the interconnectness of things: the fascination with optical illusions that led to the optical toys of the nineteenth century which in turn led to motion pictures, and woven into this thread the vision of Muybridge, who sought not simply to make things to move but to capture the motion of real life. And there’s the not unrelated history of the pop-up book (to which Gallop! is to some degree related), three-D, and the wonder of seeing things break out of the confines of a two-dimensional world.

It’s all animation, or animated pictures as the cinema pioneers had it – simply bringing things to life.

Colourful stories no. 8 – Painted by hand


Hand-coloured print of Annabelle Butterfly Dance (1895), from Before Hollywood: Turn-of-the-Century American Film (1897)

So far our history of colour in silent cinema has focussed on Kinemacolor and its antecedents. However, as significant as the ‘natural’ colour system was technically and aspirationally for the new industry, for most filmgoers of the period their experience of colour was more likely to be one of the several ways producers found of adding colours to film artificially.

We’ll be covering each of these various methods – stencil colour, tinting and toning, dye colours, coloured celluloid – but the method that came first, a direct inheritance from magic lantern practice, was painting individual frames by hand.

The first motion pictures to be shown to the public were those exhibited on the Edison Kinetoscope peepshow. These presented too small an image to the viewer to make colouring them a sensible course of action. But as soon as films were projected on a screen, producers thought about colouring them. The first such examples were therefore films originally shot for the Kinetoscope and now re-shown on a big screen, such as Annabelle dancing her butterfly dance, illustrated above. A coloured film of a serpentine dance (another of Annabelle’s specialities) was included in the first programme of the Edison Vitascope projector at Koster & Bial’s Music Hall, New York on 23 April 1896.

Loie Fuller

Loïe Fuller, a hand-coloured Pathé film dated 1905, from

Only a handful of films were selected for colouring, however. The process was immensely time-consuming, and hence expensive. Subjects for colouring were chosen with care, and were naturally those subjects which came over as most naturally ‘colourful’ in themselves. Films of dancers were among the first such subjects in the 1890s, with the colours not only reproducing the appearance of costumes but in the case of the renowned French dancer Loïe Fuller attempting to echo the striking use of coloured light in her stage performances.

Hand-colouring meant applying colours by means of tiny brushes to one frame at a time, a space measuring just one inch by three-quarters of an inch. It was reported of Edward Henry Doubell, a noted producer of coloured lantern slides (which were a far easier three inches square), that he was able to colour two to three frames per day of the Robert Paul films that he was colouring in 1896 – and, of course, we are talking about around sixteen frames for every second of projected film. The colours used were water-based or alcohol-based dyes, which were applied to the emulsion side of the film.

La Biche au Bois

Hand-coloured Demeny-Gaumont film on 60mm, from 1896, showing dancers from La Biche au Bois stage show at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, from Brian Coe, The History of Movie Photography (1981)

The great problem with hand-coloured films, apart from their expense and the time needed for their production, was accuracy of registration. The artist had to ensure consistency of colouring from frame to frame, allowing for movement, and surviving examples frequently demonstrate some haphazard application of colour as the subject moves, even while selected examples (such as La Biche au Bois above) are exquisite in their meticulous effects. The established practice came to be of teams of colourists – almost invariably women – to each of whom would be assigned a single colour for painting. The method continued into the mid-1900s, and there are dazzling examples for example in the recent Flicker Alley DVD release Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema.

However, as films became longer the hand-colour method inevitably became impractical. Audiences evidently valued coloured films, and higher prices would be paid for them by exhibitors, but a mechanised means of their production had become essential, and in the mid-1900s both the Pathé and Gaumont firms developed such systems. As Britain became home of natural colour cinematography, so France developed methods for mass producing artificially coloured films for worldwide export. Which we shall move on to next time.

Recommended reading:
Brian Coe, The History of Movie Photography (1981)
Paul Read and Mark-Paul Meyer, The Restoration of Motion Picture Film (2000)

Scotland the brave

Scottish Screen Archive

Scottish Screen Archive

The Scottish Screen Archive has released some 1,000 film clips on its impressively-redesigned site. The SSA is Scotland’s national film archive, now part of the National Library of Scotland. It has an excellent record of preserving, contextualising and making accessible a national moving image heritage to a multiplicity of audiences. This latest resource comes courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and present clips from the 1890s to the 1980s, all integrated into their existing catalogue. The searching and browsing (by place, subject, biography and decade) are all exemplary, and the catalogue descriptions are spot on.

So, what is here for the silent era? Well, sixty-two clips, all of them non-fiction titles, from 1897 onwards, including many classic gems. For instance, look out for Lord and Lady Overtoun’s Visit to Mcindoe’s Show (1906), a rare early film of the outside of a fairground bioscope show; Dr Macintyre’s X-Ray Film (1896/1909), examples of the X-ray cinematography of Dr John Macintyre; several examples of Scotland’s own silent newsreel, Scottish Moving Picture News (later called British Moving Picture News); the civic record, Glasgow’s Housing Problem and its Solution (c.1919); a family holiday home movie from 1927; film of the building of the Ritz Cinema, Edinburgh in 1929; and St Kilda – Britain’s Loneliest Isle (1923/1928), a classic picture of life on the remote island while it was still inhabited by humans.

Social films, city films, newsreels, home movies, charity films, advertising films, interest films, documentaries – this is a marvellous collection, not just of Scottish life but of the multifarious forms of the non-fiction film, demonstrating for our period what an important part it plays in what should be our understanding of the silent film overall – somehing of the people, for the people. Go explore.

Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913)

Georges Méliès

The outstanding Flicker Alley 5-disc set Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913) is now published, and I have my copy. Naturally, it’s a sensational package. Put together by Eric Lange (Lobster Films) and David Shepard (Blackhawk Films) from the archival holdings from seventeen collections across eight countries, the elegantly-presented DVDs comprises 173 titles (including one unidentified fragment) – almost (though not quite) every extant Georges Méliès film, plus the Georges Franju 1953 film, Le Grand Méliès. The DVDs are region 0, NTSC format.

The set comes with a well-illustrated booklet, which has essays by Norman McLaren (something of a surprise – it’s a transcript of an audio recording he made for a conference he couldn’t attend) and a long piece by John Frazer on Méliès’ life and work, adapted by Shepard from a text first written by Frazer in 1979. The full list of titles is now available on the Flicker Alley site, but here’s The Bioscope’s version, with the titles in the chronological order in which they appear on the DVDs, with Star-Film catalogue number, original French title and English title.

1 – Partie de cartes, une/Playing Cards
26 – Nuit terrible, une/Terrible Night, a
70 – Escamotage d’une dame chez Robert-Houdin/Vanishing Lady, the
82 – Cauchemar, le/Nightmare, A

96 – Château hanté, le/Haunted Castle, The
106 – Prise de Tournavos, la/Surrender of Tournavos, The
112 – Entre Calais et Douvres/Between Calais and Dover
122-123 – Auberge ensorcelée, l’/Bewitched Inn, the
128 – Après le bal (le tub)/After the Ball

147 – Visite sous-marine du Maine/Divers at Work on the Wreck of the “Maine”
151 – Panorama pris d’un train en marche/Panorama from Top of a Moving Train
153 – Magicien, le/Magician, The
155 – Illusions fantasmagoriques/Famous Box Trick, The
159 – Guillaume Tell et le clown/Adventures of William Tell, The
160-162 – Lune à un mètre, la/Astronomer’s Dream, The
167 – Homme de têtes, un/Four Troublesome Heads, The
169 – Tentation de Saint Antoine/Temptation of St Anthony, the

Entrevue de Dreyfus et de sa femme à Rennes

Entrevue de Dreyfus et de sa femme à Rennes

183 – Impressionniste fin de siècle, l’/Conjurer, The
185-187 – Diable au couvent, le/Devil in a Convent, The
188 – Danse du feu/Pillar of Fire, The
196 – Portrait mystérieux, le/Mysterious Portrait, The
206 – Affaire Dreyfus, la dictée du bordereau/Dreyfus Court Martial – Arrest of Dreyfus
207 – Ile du diable, l’/Dreyfus: Devil’s Island – Within the Palisade
208 – Mise aux fers de Dreyfus/Dreyfus Put in Irons
209 – Suicide du Colonel Henry/Dreyfus: Suicide of Colonel Henry
210 – Débarquement à Quiberon/Landing of Dreyfus at Quiberon
211 – Entrevue de Dreyfus et de sa femme à Rennes/Dreyfus Meets His Wife at Rennes
212 – Attentat contre Me Labori/Dreyfus: The Attempt Against the Life of Maître Labori
213 – Bagarre entre journalistes/Dreyfus: The Fight of Reporters
214-215 – Conseil de guerre en séance à Rennes, le/Dreyfus: The Court Martial at Rennes
219-224 – Cendrillon/Cinderella
226-227 – Chevalier mystère, le/Mysterious Knight, The
234 – Tom Whisky ou l’illusionniste truqué/Addition and Subtraction



243 – Vengeance du gâte-sauce, la/Cook’s Revenge, The
244 – Infortunes d’un explorateur, les/Misfortunes of an Explorer, The
262-263 – Homme-orchestre, l’/One-Man Band, The
264-275 – Jeanne d’Arc/Joan of Arc
281-282 – Rêve du Radjah ou la forêt enchantée, le/Rajah’s Dream, The
285-286 – Sorcier, le prince et le bon génie, le/Wizard, the Prince and the Good Fairy, The 289-291 – Livre magique/Magic Book, The
293 – Spiristisme abracadabrant/Up-to-date Spiritualism
294 – Illusioniste double et la tête vivante, l’/Triple Conjurer and the Living Head, The
298-305 – Rêve de Noël/Christmas Dream, The
309-310 – Nouvelles luttes extravagantes/Fat and Lean Wrestling Match
311 – Repas fantastique, le/Fantastical Meal, A
312-313 – Déshabillage impossible, le/Going to Bed under Difficulties
314 – Tonneau des Danaïdes, le/Eight Girls in a Barrel
317 – Savant et le chimpanzé, le/Doctor and the Monkey, The
322 – Réveil d’un homme pressé, le/How He Missed His Train

L’Homme à la tête en caoutchouc

L’Homme à la tête en caoutchouc

325-326 – Maison tranquille, la/What is Home Without the Boarder?
332-333 – Chrysalide et le papillon, la/Brahmin and the Butterfly, The
335-336 – Dislocation mystérieuse/Extraordinary Illusions
345-347 – Antre des esprits, le/Magician’s Cavern, The
350-351 – Chez la sorcière/Bachelor’s Paradise, The
357-358 – Excelsior!/Excelsior! – Prince of Magicians
361-370 – Barbe-Bleue/Blue Beard
371-372 – Chapeau à surprises, le/Hat With Many Surprises, The
382-383 – Homme à la tête en caoutchouc, l’/Man With the Rubber Head, The
384-385 – Diable géant ou le miracle de la madone, le/Devil and the Statue, The
386 – Nain et géant/Dwarf and the Giant, The

Voyage dans la lune

Voyage dans la lune

391 – Douche du colonel/Colonel’s Shower Bath, The
394-396 – La danseuse microscopique, la/Dancing Midget, The
399-411 – Voyage dans la lune/Trip to the Moon, A
412 – Clownesse fantôme, la/Shadow-Girl, The
413-414 – Trésors de Satan, les/Treasures of Satan, The
415-416 – Homme-mouche, l’/Human Fly, The
419 – Équilibre impossible, l’/Impossible Balancing Feat, An
426-429 – Voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants, le/Gulliver’s Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants
No number – Sacre d’Edouard VII, le/Coronation of Edward VII, The
445-448 – Guirlande merveilleuse, la/Marvellous Wreath, The

451-452 – Malheur n’arrive jamais seul, un/Misfortune Never Comes Alone
453-457 – Cake-walk infernal, le/Infernal Cake-Walk, The
458-459 – Boîte à malice, la/Mysterious Box, The
462-464 – Puits fantastique, le/Enchanted Well, The
465-469 – Auberge du bon repos, l’/Inn Where No Man Rests, The
470-471 – Statue animée, la/Drawing Lesson, The
473-475 – Sorcier, le/Witch’s Revenge, The
476 – Oracle de Delphes, l’/Oracle of Delphi, The
447-478 – Portrait spirite, le/Spiritualistic Photographer
479-480 – Mélomane, le/Melomaniac, The
481-482 – Monstre, le/Monster, The
483-498 – Royaume des fées, le/Kingdom of the Fairies, The
499-500 – Chaudron infernal, le/Infernal Cauldron, The
501-502 – Revenant, le/Apparitions
503-505 – Tonnerre de Jupiter, le/Jupiter’s Thunderbolts
506-507 – Parapluie fantastique, le/Ten Ladies in an Umbrella
508-509 – Tom Tight et Dum Dum/Jack Jaggs and Dum Dum
510-511 – Bob Kick, l’enfant terrible/Bob Kick the Mischievous Kid
512-513 – Illusions funambulesques/Extraordinary Illusions
514-516 – Enchanteur Alcofribas, l’/Alcofribas, the Master Magician
517-519 – Jack et Jim/Comical Conjuring
520-524 – Lanterne magique, la/Magic Lantern, The
525-526 – Rêve du maître de ballet, le/Ballet Master’s Dream, The
527-533 – Faust aux enfers/Damnation of Faust, The
534-535 – Bourreau turc, le/Terrible Turkish Executioner, The
538-539 – Au clair de la lune ou Pierrot malheureux/Moonlight Serenade, A
540-541 – Prêté pour un rendu, un/Tit for Tat

Voyage à travers l’impossible

Voyage à travers l’impossible

547-549 – Coffre enchanté, le/Bewitched Trunk, The
552-553 – Roi du maquillage, le/Untamable Whiskers
554-555 – Rêve de l’horloger, le/Clockmaker’s Revenge, The
556-557 – Transmutations imperceptibles, les/Imperceptible Transmutations, The
558-559 – Miracle sous l’Inquisition, un/Miracle Under the Inquisition, A
562-574 – Damnation du Docteur Faust/Faust and Marguerite
578-580 – Thaumaturge chinois, le/Tchin-Chao, the Chinese Conjurer
581-584 – Merveilleux éventail vivant, le/Wonderful Living Fan, The
585-588 – Sorcellerie culinaire/Cook in Trouble, The
589-590 – Planche du diable, la/Devilish Prank, The
593-595 – Sirène, la/Mermaid, The
641-659 – Voyage à travers l’impossible/Impossible Voyage, The
665-667 – Cascade de feu, la/Firefall, The
678-679 – Cartes vivantes, les/Living Playing Cards, The

683-685 – Diable noir, le/Black Imp, The
686-689 – Phénix ou le coffret de cristal, le/Magic Dice, The
690-692 – Menuet lilliputien, le/Lilliputian Minuet, The
705-726 – Palais des mille et une nuits, le/Palace of the Arabian Nights, The
727-731 – Compositeur toqué, le/Crazy Composer, A
738-739 – Chaise à porteurs enchantée, la/Enchanted Sedan Chair, The
740-749 – Raid Paris – Monte-Carlo en deux heures, le/Adventurous Automobile Trip, An
756-775 – Légende de Rip Van Vinckle, la/Rip’s Dream
784-785 – Tripot clandestin, le/Scheming Gamblers’ Paradise, The
789-790 – Chute de cinq étages, une/Mix-up in the Gallery, A
791-806 – Jack le ramoneur/Chimney Sweep, The
807-809 – Maestro Do-Mi-Sol-Do, le/Luny Musician, The

818-820 – Cardeuse de matelas, la/Tramp and the Mattress Makers, The
821-823 – Affiches en goguette, les/Hilarious Posters, The
824-837 – Incendiaires, les/Desperate Crime, A
838-839 – “Anarchie chez Guignol, l'”/Punch and Judy
843-845 – Hôtel des voyageurs de commerce ou les suites d’une bonne cuite, l’/Roadside Inn, A
846-848 – Bulles de savon animées, les/Soap Bubbles
849-870 – Quatre cents farces du diable, les/Merry Frolics of Satan, The
874-876 – Alchimiste Parafaragaramus ou la cornue infernale, l’/Mysterious Retort, The
877-887 – Fée Carabosse ou le poignard fatal, la/Witch, The

L’Tunnel sous la Manche ou le cauchemar anglo-français

L’Tunnel sous la Manche ou le cauchemar anglo-français

909-911 – Douche d’eau bouillante, la/Rogues’ Tricks
925-928 – Fromages automobiles, les/Skipping Cheeses, The
936-950 – Tunnel sous la Manche ou le cauchemar anglo-français, le/Tunnelling the English Channel
961-968 – Eclipse de soleil en pleine lune/Eclipse, or the Courtship of the Sun and Moon, The
1000-1004 – Pauvre John ou les aventures d’un buveur de whisky/Sightseeing through Whisky
1005-1009 – Colle universelle, la/Good Glue Sticks
1014-1017 – Ali Barbouyou et Ali Bouf à l’huile/Delirium in a Studio
1030-1034 – Tambourin fantastique, le/Knight of Black Art, The
1035-1039 – Cuisine de l’ogre, la/In the Bogie Man’s Cave
1044-1049 – Il y a un dieu pour les ivrognes/Good Luck of a Souse, The
1066-1068 – Torches humaines/Justinian’s Human Toches 548 A.D.

1069-1072 – Génie du feu, le/Genii of the Fire, The
1073-1080 – Why that actor was late
1081-1085 – Rêve d’un fumeur d’opium, le/Dream of an Opium Fiend, The
1091-1095 – Photographie électrique à distance, la/Long Distance Wireless Photography
1096-1101 – Prophétesse de Thèbes, la/Prophetess of Thebes, The
1102-1103 – Salon de coiffure/In the Barber Shop
1132-1145 – Nouveau seigneur du village, le/New Lord of the Village, The
1146-1158 – Avare, l’/Miser, The
1159-1165 – Conseil du Pipelet ou un tour à la foire, le/Side Show Wrestlers
1176-1185 – Lully ou le violon brisé/Broken Violin, The
1227-1232 – The Woes of Roller Skates
1246-1249 – Amour et mélasse/His First Job
1250-1252 – Mésaventures d’un photographe, les/The Mischances of a Photographer
1253-1257 – Fakir de Singapour, le/Indian Sorcerer, An
1266-1268 – Tricky painter’s fate, a
1288-1293 – French interpreter policeman/French Cops Learning English
1301-1309 – Anaïc ou le balafré/Not Guilty
1310-1313 – Pour l’étoile S.V.P./Buncoed Stage Johnnie
1314-1325 – Conte de la grand-mère et rêve de l’enfant/Grandmother’s Story, A
1416-1428 – Hallucinations pharmaceutiques ou le truc du potard/Pharmaceutical Hallucinations
1429-1441 – Bonne bergère et la mauvaise princesse, la/Good Shepherdess and the Evil Princess
No number – unidentified film

1495-1501 – Locataire diabolique, le/Diabolic Tenant, The
1508-1512 – Illusions fantaisistes, les/Whimsical Illusions

1536-1547 – Hallucinations du Baron de Münchausen, les /Baron Munchausen’s Dream

Pathé – A la conquète du pôle/Conquest of the Pole, The
Pathé – Cendrillon ou la pantoufle merveilleuse/Cinderella
Pathé – Chevalier des neiges, le/Knight of the Snow, The

Pathé – Voyage de la famille Bourrichon, le/Voyage of the Bourichon Family, The

Almost needless to say, the quality of the digital transfers is excellent, sometimes startlingly so. There are fifteen examples of beautiful hand-colouring. Many musicians have provided scores, making the DVD a fascinating demonstration in itself of different approaches to the task of accompanying Georges Méliès (even if, for myself I find the American taste for organ accompaniment baffling). They are Eric Beheim, Brian Benison, Frederick Hodges, Robert Israel, Neal Kurz, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Alexander Rannie, Joseph Rinaudo, Rodney Sauer and Donald Sosin. Some of the films come with Georges Méliès’ original English narrations, designed to be spoken alongside the films, and here are spoken by Serge Bromberg and Fabrice Zagury (with some rather quaint mangling of the English language in places).

Georges Méliès is confirmed here as among the pre-eminent artists of the cinema, perhaps the most exuberant of all filmmakers. The films display imagination, wit, ingenuity, grace, style, fun, invention, mischief, intelligence, anarchy, innocence, vision, satire, panache, beauty and longing, the poetry of the absurd. Starting out as extensions of the tricks that made up Méliès’ magic shows, to view them in chronological order as they are here is to see the cinema itself bursting out of its stage origins into a theatre of the mind, where anything becomes possible – a true voyage à travers l’impossible, to take the title of one of his best-known films. The best of them have not really dated at all, in that they have become timeless, and presumably (hopefully) always will be so. Méliès in his lifetime suffered the agony of seeing his style of filmming turn archaic as narrative style in the Griffith manner became dominant, but we can see now that is his work that has truly lasted. The films will always stand out as showing how motion pictures, when they first did appeared, in a profound sense captured the imagination. And there is that consistency of vision that confirms Méliès as a true artist with a body of work that belongs in a gallery – or in this case a boxed set of DVDs – for everyone to appreciate.

What a great publication this is. Every good home should have one.

Update (January 2010):
For information on a sixth, supplementary disc with an additional 26 titles, see