El laboratorio del diablo (1904)

aka Les sept chateaux du diable, The Seven Castles of the Devil
Article 4099 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-6-2012
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Deal with the devil story

A poor man sells his soul for the chance to live in the seven castles of the devil, one for each deadly sin. Can a beautiful woman save him?

This variation on the Faust tale was pretty elaborate for the time, as it runs a good eleven minutes. It is, however, one of the more blatantly obvious imitations of Melies; much of the design is very similar to the work in the Melies films, and it also likes to bring things to a halt for scenes of dancing ballerinas, another of Melies’s quirks. This is not to say that the short is somewhat enjoyable; it’s entertaining enough, though it does get a little obscure at times. My favorite scene is in the castle of Gluttony, where huge amounts of food are thrown down the throat of a gigantic face. One interesting touch is that the various signs indicating the name of each castle change languages frequently, thus no doubt making the movie marketable to people of several nations. This is another one that ended up on my “ones that got away” list.


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