Up-to-Date Spiritualism (1900)
Alternate Title: Spiritisme Abracadabrant
Another short from Georges Méliès depicting the plight of a fellow plagued by a Poltergeist, this movie has a lot in common with “The Bewitched Inn” and other ghost-comedies Méliès produced. I’m including it as part of my “history of horror” because it fits the theme of supernatural pests, even if it wouldn’t scare even a small child.
We see a man (Méliès) in costume on a typical proscenium-style set. He appears to be in a room or salon and to have just arrived – he is still in hat and coat, and he carries a large umbrella. He puts the umbrella on a stool and while his back is turned it suddenly flies offscreen to the right. He notices that it has vanished, but goes ahead and takes off his hat and places it on the same stool. The hat now levitates in front of him. When he tries to grab it, it eludes him, but when he lets it go, it suddenly appears on his head again. He now removes both hat and coat, only to have them reappear on his body again. He now begins a war to try to get the hat and coat off, but each time he lets go of them, they are suddenly on him again. He becomes increasingly agitated, trying to hurl the objects away, but to no avail. Finally, he tries overturning a large table and putting the offending clothes underneath it. He rubs his hands together, believing that he has outwitted the ghost, but once again the hat and coat appear on him! He now flees the room in terror or perhaps annoyance.
The Star Films catalog refers to this movie as a “comique eccentric,” and describes it much as I have, with perhaps a bit more action than I saw (“the chairs, his umbrella, his hat, etc fly away in different directions and by various methods”). The only method at work on the flying objects was suspension by a string, and the effect of having things reappear on the character is entirely handled with jump cuts. It still works, though, and I got a few chuckles watching the way Méliès’s character shows his growing irritation at the phenomenon through body language. A nice example of the work Méliès was producing in huge numbers at this point in time.
Director: Georges Méliès
Starring: Georges Méliès
Run Time: 1 Min, 10 secs
You can watch it for free: here (with music).