Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: remakes

An Excursion to the Moon (1908)

This movie is an unabashed remake of Georges Méliès beloved classic “A Trip to the Moon,” although with a shorter run time and a smaller cast and (evidently) budget. It nonetheless does preserve bits of Segundo de Chomón’s signature wit and gentle charm.

The movie consists of a series of discrete shots, each set up as a tableau within a proscenium-style stage area. The first shot shows a group of “scientists” or explorers, is a garden at night, the moon hanging overhead. One, who is kitted out in a classic wizard’s robe and cap, lectures at them and gestures to the moon. The others appear skeptical at his message. However, they follow him off stage after a bit of pantomime. The next shot shows the wizard/scientist’s observatory, with a large telescope in the background. The wizard shows his fellows the elaborate equations he has worked out on the chalkboard, then turns the chalkboard over to reveal a screen on which an animated image of a capsule flying between Earth and Moon appears. The others appear to congratulate him, and then follow him off this stage to the next scene.

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The Kiss (1900)

This was released as an admitted remake of the original “The Kiss,” starring May Irwin and John C. Rice. It was far less controversial in its time, but Edison Studios did everything they could to make it as profitable.

kiss-1900We see a mid-shot of two people, a man and a woman sitting close together, in front of a backdrop that suggests a cozy setting. The woman has her hair up and wears a frilly dress, the man has a mustache. They hug one another and peck at each other’s lips, although the kisses generally only last for a second or two. There is no really scandalous deep kissing, and they spend more time smiling at one another than actually kissing.

As a student of early cinema, I’m always amused when someone today complains about there being too many remakes. Remakes are literally as old as cinema, and they were far more common and frequent in the first years of experimentation than they are today. The Edison catalog was entirely up front about this remake: “Nothing new, but an old thing done over again and done well. Some one has attempted to describe a kiss as ‘something made of nothing,’ but this is not one of that kind, but one of those old fashioned ‘home made’ kind that sets the whole audience into merriment and motion, and has always proven a popular subject. It is very fine photographically and an exhibit is not complete without it.” It’s interesting to wonder why it was necessary to remake this film only four years after its release at the same studio – possibly the original was now too worn out to make further copies, or possibly they hoped that by using a new camera and modern film, they could improve the picture and the impact. The actors are noticeably younger than John Rice and May Irwin, and it may be that as their fame waned, the image of two middle-aged people kissing was less appealing than it had been.

Director: Unknown (imdb claims Edwin S. Porter, but Library of Congress does not confirm this).

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Unknown (imdb claims Fred Ott, but this is almost certainly wrong).

Run Time: 45 secs

You can watch it for free: here (no music).

Card Party (1896)

Alternate Titles: Une partie de cartes, Playing Cards

This early remake by Georges Méliès is interesting in both showing the degree to which early film makers were influenced by one another, but also how distinctive Méliès’s movies were even before he had developed his signature style. His vision is clear, even as he was uncertainly beginning to experiment with the camera.

Partie_de_cartes_(Star_Film_1,_1896)In an intentional re-enactment of “Playing Cards” by the Lumière brothers, Méliès and two male companions sit at a table outdoors with playing cards and a woman serves them wine. The other two men seem to want to focus on their game, but Méliès is the center of attention, toasting the other men, gesturing with his newspaper and telling them something that makes everyone laugh. In an age well before the concept of the “movie star” had been born, Méliès shows a powerful presence in front of the camera. Whereas a person watching the original will simply remember that it was a clear image of people at play, the viewer here takes away the performance and persona of Méliès as a character.

As with Lumière, Méliès called in members of his family for this early film. The girl who runs out at the beginning is his daughter Georgette and one of the card players is his brother Gaston, who would later prove to be a terrible business manager, helping to end Georges’s career.

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Georges Méliès, Georgette Méliès, Gaston Méliès

Run Time: 1 Min, 7 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

The Blacksmiths (1895)

Blacksmiths

This is another of the movies the Lumière brothers showed at the world’s first public film screening, at the Salon Indien, Grand Café, 14 Boulevard des Capuchins, Paris on December 28, 1895, beating Edison by about four months. Whereas I’ve emphasized the difference in style between Lumière and Edison in the past, this one seems to emphasize that the Lumières had seen a demonstration of the early Kinetoscope, because it seems to be a French remake of the “Blacksmithing Scene.” This impression is particularly strengthened by the fact that both films end as a character offers a drink to one of the workers – in the American movie, a bottle of beer, in the French, a glass of wine. The other major difference is that where Edison’s people made an incomplete set and shot inside the Black Maria, Louis Lumière appears to have taken the Cinématograph on location or at least done a rather more convincing job of building a blacksmith set. Because of the importance of horses for transportation in the late nineteenth century, there were of course still blacksmiths around to be photographed.

Alternate Title: Les Forgerons

Director/Camera: Louis Lumière

Run Time: 48 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.