Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: fragment

Misfortunes of an Explorer (1900)

This tantalizing fragment of a short film from Georges Méliès suggests the opening to a trick film. It mostly gives us today a brief opportunity to admire the inventive sets and costumes of his films.

We see a set decorated with various props suggesting an Egyptian archaeological find. There is a statue, walls made of heavy stone blocks, some censers, and a large sarcophagus. Méliès walks out onto the set dressed in a pith helmet and other typical Western explorer’s garb. He examines the sarcophagus and opens the lid, stepping inside before turning to look at the audience. Then the surviving film runs out.

One imagines from the set up and title that the rest of the film will involve annoying or dangerous special effects, along the lines of “The Bewitched Inn,” “The Haunted Castle,” or possibly “The Cook’s Revenge.” But, we don’t know, because the opening of the film is all we can see. Méliès looks great in his outfit, and the set and props are done to his usual standards, so one imagines that this would be another enjoyable romp. Even the Star Films Catalog is uninformative. Perhaps someday a complete print will be rediscovered so we can find out.

Director Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Georges Méliès

Run Time: 18 secs (fragment)

You can watch it for free: here.

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Obsession, The (1912)

Obsession

This cautionary short by Louis Feuillade allows Renée Carl to show nearly every emotion during its 23-minute duration. She plays a woman who is duped by a phony fortune teller into believing that her husband (René Navarre, from “Fantômas” and “The Trust”) is doomed to die, a suspicion confirmed for the audience when he books a passage aboard the Titanic! But, he survives and returns, causing her to fear that her son must be the one fated to die. The avuncular godfather tricks the palmist into returning and giving a glowing prediction, giving away the game and saving Renée from her obsession. Unfortunately, the final scenes are missing, so had to be summarized in intertitles, but what there is here is interesting. I was particularly struck by the a-typical (for the time) lighting, as demonstrated in the still above. The practical lamp on the right is used again in a scene where the mother worries over the child, and she is able to pick it up and shine it on the bed. This is remarkable, because my understanding is that film of that time was not fast enough to “see” light from a practical source, unless you put a super-powerful bulb in it. So, either there was a clever lighting trick done to make it seem like the light moved with the lamp (without it casting a noticeable shadow), or Renée was in danger of seriously burning herself when she picked it up. Or else I’m badly misinformed on this point. At any rate, it’s a rare shot for the period, and looks pretty good, however it was done.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: Renée Carl, René Navarre

Run Time: 23 Min, 43 secs

You can watch it for free: here.