Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)
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.