October is nearly over, and my history of horror film has just barely broken into the twentieth century. Well and good, that leaves plenty for next year! I wanted to talk about this movie, because it’s different in tone and sophistication to the earlier films by Méliès that I’ve discussed. It is also a bit of a technical breakthrough, because apparently it is the first movie in which he used macro-photography to enlarge an object on the screen, something he famously did later in “The Man with the Rubber Head.” In this one, a couple (who may or may not be Romeo & Juliet) begin with a serenade, then the man leaves. The woman swoons around her room and suddenly the Devil appears and taunts her. He dances “suggestively” (according to the original catalog) and grows to enormous size until the woman prays to a statue of the Virgin Mary, who comes to life and diminishes the Devil with her powers, until he vanishes. There seems to be a clear sexual subtext here, that Juliet is so turned on by Romeo that she herself summons the Devil to tempt her, but interestingly at the end when the Madonna has saved her she also removes the bars in the window, allowing Romeo to once again enter the room. The narrative places Juliet in apparent peril, however, making this a “scarier” movie than most of the simple trick films we’ve seen up to now.
Director: Georges Méliès
Starring: Georges Méliès
Run Time: 2 Min
You can watch it for free: here.