Faust and Marguerite (1900)
Along with “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” the legend of Faust seems to have inspired many of the early efforts at horror movies; for example it is undeniably part of the impetus behind “The Student of Prague.” This is its first known filmed interpretation, and also the earliest known foray into the horror genre by Edison Studios, who would later give us “Frankenstein.” It derives from staged productions, themselves inspired by Goethe’s famously complex “Faust, Part II.” It seems to me that the director, Edwin S. Porter, had a hard time boiling the story down to something simple enough for a one minute “trick” film. Faust and Mephistopheles argue over who will behead Marguerite, who sits very passively the whole time, until she magically trades places with Faust. It looks like Faust and Marguerite are both doomed, but suddenly the Devil disappears and they appear with a parson, who seems to be marrying them. I think it’s meant to suggest that their love has overcome evil, but it’s a little hard to be sure. There is a cool skeleton at one point, and the whole thing feels a bit more serious than the comparable Méliès and Smith movies I’ve been discussing, but that may just be the classical subject matter adding weight to it.
Director: Edwin S. Porter
Run Time: 57 seconds
You can watch it for free: here.