Best Visual Effects 1916
Movies are often seen as the most “realistic” of art forms, since photography captures light as it is, rather than allowing the artist to create the image from their mind, as in painting or sculpture. But, we all know that movies have always tricked our eyes with special effects, to make the unreal or even impossible appear to happen before our very eyes. By 1916, filmmakers had moved beyond the early style of “trick films” whose limited plots centered entirely around effects, to complex storylines with effects woven in to enhance the fantasy or escape that was now at the center of attention.
The first filmed version of “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” involved building a mockup of the Nautilus, and even more impressively the development of new techniques for filming underwater. Director Louis Feuillade shows what he had learned in his apprenticeship under Alice Guy with recovery of body thrown from a moving train in “The Spectre” (an episode of the serial “Les Vampires”) and also gives us his patented triple-split-screen to represent a phone conversation and the space between the speakers. The movie “The Devil’s Needle” enters into the realm of fantasy in showing the hallucinations of a heroin addict. In the serial “Homunculus,” visual effects are used to illustrate the creation of an artificial man, and some of the powers he exhibits. “The Mysterious Shadow,” the first official episode of the “Judex” serial, shows the secret base of the hero of that story, and also the disinterment and revival of a corpse.
The nominees for best visual effects of 1916 are:
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- The Spectre (Les Vampires)
- The Devil’s Needle
- The Mysterious Shadow (Judex)
And the winner is…“20,000 Leagues under the Sea!”
This was a pretty easy one. Out of the movies I saw last year, nothing matched this science fiction tale in terms of visual effects. Certainly, the other movies had their moments, but none of them really offered anything new: split screen, double images, fade outs, trick props, lighting effects had all been done before. But, googly-eyed octopuses aside, Universal really took out all the stops for this production. Judging by its record at the box office, this early adventure movie paid off as well. According to Moving Picture World, it played at one picture palace for over eight weeks, something that nearly never happened in the high turnover of early film.