Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)

Dream of Rarebit Fiend

This movie is Edwin S. Porter‘s interpretation of a comic strip by Winsor McCay, the creator of the well-known and bizarre “Little Nemo” series. The premise is that a fellow, after eating Welsh rarebit, experiences a series of hallucinatory effects. One could argue that this makes it the first LSD film, although of course LSD would not be invented for another 32 years. I certainly think that the drug-reference is deliberate, although I’d guess that rarebit was substituted to avoid offending people or perhaps for fear of making narcotics seem appealing to children. Porter here uses the full range of camera effects pioneered by Georges Méliès, but to what seems to me a very original effect. First, the man experiences extreme vertigo, and the sense that a pole he is hanging on to is flying through a wind. Then, when he staggers into bed, he is briefly tormented by imps, pounding on his head with a variety of implements, then his bed starts leaping around the room and ultimately flies out the window and over the city, with him on board as a passenger. The story is told without intertitles or text of any kind. I think it may have been the best thing Porter ever did, although it was less innovative than “The Great Train Robbery.”

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Run time: 7 Min

You can watch it for free: here.

Fatty Joins the Force (1913)

Fatty Joins The Force

A friend asked me who Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was recently, and I said, “before there was Charlie Chaplin, there was Fatty Arbuckle.” This answer serves for casual conversation, but, of course, is an oversimplification, ignoring the degree to which the careers of the two men paralleled and even intersected one another. This is an example of a movie Arbuckle made at Keystone only a few weeks before Chaplin arrived at the lot, and it has a lot in common with the movies I’ve discussed from Chaplin’s Keystone era. It certainly lives up to the formula, “a park, a girl, and a policeman,” with the interesting twist that Fatty himself is the policeman, and a gang of local kids are his nemesis. It includes such recognizable comedic standards as pies in the face, mistaken identities, and clothes stolen while an innocent fool takes a swim. Fatty winds up the worse for the whole experience, even losing his girl (Dorothy “Dot” Farley, later in “The Unholy Three” with Lon Chaney, Sr. and “Pretty Policeman”) to the police captain! Arbuckle may be a bit heavier than the other stars of slapstick, but nearly as athletic in his pratfalls as the stars we remember better today. Mack Sennett, the head of Keystone, makes a cameo appearance as one of Fatty’s fellow officers.

Director: George Nichols

Starring: Roscoe Arbuckle, Dorothy Farley, Mack Sennett

Run Time: 13 Min

You can watch it for free: here.