THE SCULPTOR’S NIGHTMARE (1908)
Article 4800 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Wallace McCutcheon
Featuring Florence Auer, Edward Dillon, D.W. Griffith
What it is: Fantastically themed political commentary
A sculptor’s studio is vandalized by the drunken members of a political group who each want him to make a bust of their favorite candidate. The sculptor himself gets drunk and ends up in jail, where he dreams that the busts build themselves.
There are some movies that can only be appreciated if you take them in their historical context, which is my way of saying that I wouldn’t have been able make heads or tails out of this one if the plot description hadn’t clued me in to what was going on. 1908 was an election year, and Teddy Roosevelt was leaving office, so the race was hotly contested. Using stop-motion animation (or an early version of Claymation, if you will), busts of the candidates assemble themselves as does one of Roosevelt himself. That at least partially explains what’s going on here, but what’s less clear is what the short is trying to say about it all. I myself suspect that the short exists purely for the benefit of the special effects, but if that’s the case, it sure takes a long time to get around to them. I think the first half of the short can be safely skipped to get to the special effects, which are quite good.