The Prophetess of Thebes (1907)

THE PROPHETESS OF THEBES (1907)
aka La Prophetesse de Thebes
Article 2541 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-20-2008
Posting Date: 7-27-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France

A king visits a prophetess and sees a vision of his own assassination. This makes him a rather disagreeable customer when it comes time for him to pay for her services.

One good thing about being a prophetess is that you can know in advance which of your customers are going to give you trouble, so she keeps a couple of demons around as well as a really big guy to help out in such a case. She makes sure to check the bag of money at the end, which is good; I’m sure she’d hate to end up with a bagful of sand like the ill-fated witch from THE WITCH. But then, being a prophetess, she probably knew the money would be good as well.

I guess the lesson of this one is “Be Prepared”.

P.S. I only realized after having written this review that the footage I saw was not the complete movie, but only a fragment. This explains why there really isn’t much of a plot to this one.

 

The Bewitched Trunk (1904)

THE BEWITCHED TRUNK (1904)
aka Le Coffre enchante
Article 2540 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-19-2008
Posting Date: 7-26-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France

A magician performs amazing feats with a trunk.

No plot here; this, like THE VANISHING LADY, is merely movie-as-magic-trick; Melies uses special effects to give us a magic show, in which various people and things appear and disappear in a trunk. This one is a little disappointing largely because it’s not very ambitious; I’m a little surprised that he was still making movies like this after A TRIP TO THE MOON, but then, he didn’t make more than five hundred films by waiting around for inspiration to strike. This one is unremarkable, but fun nonetheless.

 

The Witch (1906)

THE WITCH (1906)
aka La Fee Carabosse ou le poignard fatal
Article 2539 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-18-2008
Posting Date: 7-25-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France

A young prince tricks a witch out of a shamrock in his hopes of using it to save a princess. He sets out on his task, only to find the witch in hot pursuit.

This is a somewhat unsatisfying Melies short, largely because I think the witch really got the bad end of the deal and wish she had emerged victorious. Still, the hand coloring is wonderful here, and the moment where the prince finds himself threatened by a number of fierce beasties (a giant frog, a giant owl, and a fire-breathing dragon that looks a little too much like THE GIANT CLAW) is a lot of fun. This film was commissioned by a furniture store to provide entertainment for children while their parents shopped.

 

The Vanishing Lady (1896)

THE VANISHING LADY (1896)
aka Escomatage d’une dame au theatre Robert Houdin
Article 2538 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-17-2008
Posting Date: 7-24-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Jeanne d’Alcy, Georges Melies
Country: France

A magician makes a lady vanish and reappear, though he ends up turning her into a skeleton at one point.

This is Georges Melies at the point of learning his craft; it’s a straightforward recreation of a stage magic act enhanced with the advantage of movie special effects; it even features a curtain call and a bow. If its interest is primarily historical, it is interesting to note the innate showmanship with which Melies plies his craft in the role of the magician here; when he makes the skeleton appear, his shocked and surprised reaction adds a bit of humor to the proceedings. If anything, one senses that Melies had a sure hand even at this point with his special effects.

 

The Treasures of Satan (1902)

THE TREASURES OF SATAN (1902)
aka Les Tresors de Satan
Article 2537 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-16-2008
Posting Date: 7-23-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France

Satan locks up his treasures in a big chest. A thief comes in and tries to steal them, only to discover that the chest has some elaborate safeguards.

If the lesson of IN THE BOGIE MAN’S CAVE was “Be careful what you eat.”, the lesson of this one is “Be careful who you rob.” At least, that’s what I got out of it; the plot description on IMDB from the Star Film Catalog gives a distinctly different take on the proceedings than I got from watching it. Obviously, one of us is wrong, but whoever has it right, you’ve got to beware those chests that spit out spear-carrying beautiful women, and you don’t want to steal any money-bags that hop up and down of their own accord. Best of all, don’t rob anyone who has a solid grounding in the black arts.

 

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1898)

THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT ANTHONY (1898)
aka La Tentation de Saint-Antoine
Article 2536 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2008
Posting Date: 7-22-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France

Saint Anthony is tempted.

So what tempts Saint Anthony? Well, it appears to be girls; pretty girls who appear out of nowhere and play ring-around-the-rosey with him. Even kissing that skull he keeps under his crucifix is no help; it just turns into another pretty girl. Then, when the figure on the cross turns into a pretty girl as well, all hope seems lost for our hero. But wait – here’s an angel to save him. Well, maybe – if you ask me, that angel also looks like a pretty girl, but our hero acts like he’s saved, so what do I know?

Personally, I find his propensity for kissing skulls to be a lot more disturbing.

 

Pharmaceutical Hallucinations (1908)

PHARMACEUTICAL HALLUCINATIONS (1908)
aka Hallucinations pharmaceutiques ou Le truc de potard
Article 2535 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2008
Posting Date: 7-21-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France

A pharmacist and his assistants cater to the rich and powerful but neglect the poor. Then one of them finds himself haunted by apparitions, which drives him to seek help from a wizard.

It’s hard to believe it, but this Melies short (most of which move at a pretty fast clip) is slow to get started; for the most part, the first three minutes consists of watching the pharmacists mix their drugs. Still, once you see the rich man fawned over and the poor man thrown out, you’ll know that there’s a Moral Lesson To Be Learned here, and sure enough, once we see one of them being haunted by ghosts, we know he’s going to learn something about his treatment of the poor. The only problem is, I’m not sure what; the visit to the wizard brings about an encounter with a magical woman who rides off on a giant snail which, no doubt, means something, but I’m at a loss to say what; perhaps the secret is hidden in narration that was originally written for this short, but which no longer exists. Still, the Moral Lesson To Be Learned is learned, but it somehow requires the pharmacists turn into bakers. I emerged puzzled, but admittedly amused. Come to think of it, that’s a good reaction to a lot of Melies’s work.

 

The Secret of Treasure Island (1938)

THE SECRET OF TREASURE ISLAND (1938)
Serial
Article 2534 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-13-2008
Posting Date: 7-20-2008
Directed by Elmer Clifton
Featuring Don Terry, Gwen Gaze, Walter Miller
Country: USA

A woman learns that she is the heiress to half of a pirate treasure map showing where a fortune is hidden on Treasure Island. Unfortunately, a criminal known as The Shark (who has a fortress on Treasure Island) has the other half of the map, and will stop at nothing to get the missing half.

I like this one, but heck, I like THE LOST CITY. Its 4.7 rating on IMDB does seem to indicate that I’m not in step with other serial fans as far as this one goes, but I find the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach here (which includes a group of underground workers known as Mole Men, a strange professor, a trained crow, a crusty old seaman with a hook for a hand, a room of doors, a suspicious doctor and his nurse, and, finally, the Ghost of the Black Pirate) to be a lot more fun than some of the later serials that seem cut out of the same mold. It’s entertaining as long as it stays on Treasure Island; once the action shifts to the mainland, it gets fairly dull, and I suspect that the serial was expanded to fifteen episodes at the last minute. The cliffhangers are pretty good, but they would have been better had the resolutions not been singularly lame. The story is from L. Ron Hubbard, and there is some science fiction gadgetry to augment the fantastic content beyond that of the ghost (and, if you’re like me, you just know that the latter will be debunked before its all through).

 

In the Bogie Man’s Cave (1907)

IN THE BOGIE MAN’S CAVE (1907)
aka La Cuisine de l’ogre
Article 2533 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2008
Posting Date: 7-19-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast Unknown
Country: France

A bogie man (or ogre, as the case may be) makes a meal out of a captured man. However, he falls asleep, and dreams that the men that he’s eaten come back to seek revenge.

Melies gives us another argument about why you should watch your diet; what you eat may come back to haunt you. Last night I saw talking cows, pigs, carrots, and heads of lettuce, but then, I was watching “The Muppet Show”. At least they didn’t try to cook me; had they done so, I would have come back to haunt them. It’s a vicious circle, I tell you.

Sorry, I’m rambling. Me, I spell bogie man with two o’s, but that’s a propos of nothing, and I only made that last comment because I wanted to use “a propos” in a sentence. Life is full of its minor pleasures.

All right, I’ll shut up.

 

The Pillar of Fire (1899)

THE PILLAR OF FIRE (1899)
aka La Colonne de feu, Le Danse de feu
Article 2532 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-11-2008
Posting Date: 7-18-2008
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Jeanne d’Alcy, Georges Melies
Country: France

A devil starts a fire, and a woman dances in it.

This is another movie that I’d relegated to my “not found” list, and perhaps it should have stayed there. If the truth be told, I’m not sure that this movie is the same movie. The movie I saw is called LE DANSE DE FEU, with an alternate English title of THE PILLAR OF FIRE. The movie I was looking for is called LA COLONNE DE FEU, with an alternate English title of HAGGARD’S SHE: THE PILLAR OF FIRE. Both titles are listed as having belonged to the year 1899, and I haven’t a source yet that lists the two movies as separate entities. Are they, in fact, the same movie? I’m taking a guess and saying that they are unless I receive other info to clarify the situation. As for the movie itself, there’s little more to it than the above plot description, so I’m considering it one of Melies’s lesser efforts. I’m pretty sure that’s him as the devil; he never missed an opportunity to play one.

NOTE: This was written several months ago. I now notice that the other French title has been added as an altenate title to this one, which I will take as evidence that this is indeed the same movie.