UN HORRIBLE CAUCHEMAR (1902)
aka A Horrible Nightmare
Article 5150 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
What it is: A bad dream
An opium smoker has a nightmare in which he is in an inescapable prison and tormented by a disappearing devil.
If this is the kind of experience you have when smoking opium, it’s just as well I never took up the habit. It’s your basic bare-bones Melies imitation; even the elaborate background painting smacks of Melies’s style, and the devil is like a variation on Melies’s ubiquitous tumbling imps. And if the ending is any indication, then your Teddy Bear is going to get the worst of the experience. At any rate, it’s a fairly amusing early trick short.
On a side note, when I first conceived of this project, my first strategy was to watch all of the movies in a strict chronological order. I abandoned this approach as it would have been a logistical nightmare; the silent era is full of difficult-to-find obscurities, and research on the era is full of so much misinformation that I would have rapidly gotten mired in the project and it would have never gotten off the ground. Instead, I chose a much looser approach (which has a chronological edge to it) that would allow me to start with movies much easier to find, and I’m glad I did. Still, the silent era fascinates me, and even this late in the game, some of these elusive titles pop up and I can still cover them.
However, I really do owe a debt of thanks to all of those who have taken an interest in my project and have pointed me in the direction of finding some of the rarities I’ve seen, especially those who have helped me negotiate the pitfalls of the silent era. This movie initially ended up on my “ones that got away” list with a LOST status, but then doctor kiss at the Classic Horror Film Board revealed that he had located the movie in a streaming file of unidentified Pathe shorts, giving me a chance to catch a movie I might otherwise have never seen. I dedicate this review to all of those who have been generous in their help; this project wouldn’t be the same without their help.