The Brahmin and the Butterfly (1903)

aka La chrysalide et le papillon d’or
Article 4052 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-7-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A Brahmin lures a caterpillar into a cocoon, where it transforms into a butterfly. However, he makes the mistake of trying to capture the butterfly for his own.

I was expecting little more than another Melies trick short here, but it actually, in its own bare-bones way, tells a story about the error of trying to catch for ourselves what we cannot have. The tricks are a little offbeat this time, such as the effects for the giant crawling caterpillar and the flying butterfly. Though it’s certainly not one of his best, I rather enjoyed this simple little short.

Bob Kick, the Mischievous Kid (1903)

aka Bob Kick, l’enfant terrible
Article 4049 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

Bob Kick drinks a bottle of booze and has hallucinations. He then jumps through a hoop and vanishes.

When you’re watching a silent three minute short, you don’t really expect much in the way of a plot. Still, this one seems rather random and pointless, with the first part setting up a situation that then plays no role in the second part of the movie. As a trick short, it all seems rather routine; Melies had already done the same tricks before, and this one adds nothing new. This isn’t one of the better examples of Melies’s oeuvre.

Bury Me an Angel (1972)

Article 4046 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-1-2012
Directed by Barbara Peeters
Featuring Dixie Peabody, Terry Mace, Clyde Ventura
Country: USA
What it is: Biker flick

A young woman vows vengeance when her brother is killed by an unknown gunman.

You can thank “The Motion Picture Guide” for having steered me towards this biker flick; for some reason beyond my understanding, they misclassified it as horror. I fully expected there to be no fantastic content to it, as none of my other sources list it. However, there is some; at one point in the proceedings, the characters encounter a witch who does appear to have some mystical powers; she can hold her hand in a fire and not get burned. The movie itself is mostly notable for having been directed by a woman and featuring a strong central female character, which was definitely a rarity for a biker flick. It also tries to have some meaningful psychological underpinnings. Unfortunately, the movie is a misfire; it’s badly written, poorly acted, and more than a little bit silly, especially during the scenes where it’s supposed to be serious. Nevertheless, the movie does appear to have a certain cult following, at least partially for its colorful ad line, “A howling hellcat humping a hot steel hog on a roaring rampage of revenge!”, which is certainly an awesome arrangement of artful alliteration. Still, in terms of its fantastic content, it’s marginal.

The Blasphemer (1921)

Article 4041 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-26-2012
Directed by O.E. Goebel
Featuring George Howard, Augusta Anderson, Irving Cummings
Country: USA
What it is: Christian morality tale

A stock market tycoon, intoxicated by his financial success, rejects God and claims that he himself is the agent of his own fate. However, he soon finds out that he is not quite as much the master of his fate as he thought…

I went into this Christian movie (produced by the Catholic Art Association) under the assumption that the fantastic content would involve some overt Christian miracles, but, as it turns out, the hand of God here mostly seems to work in the realm of melodramatic and unlikely plot twists; it would have been possible to tell the same basic story with all of overt Christianity removed, and it would have fit just fine into the “fall and reformation of a scoundrel” genre. The movie might have moved along quicker as well; the copy on Amazon Instant Video runs an hour and 48 minutes, and at least part of the reason it gets boring on occasion is that it will bring the action to a screeching halt so that it can deliver some messages. Hardly anything happens during the first half of the movie, and the flat, dull direction does little to hold the interest. However, the worst problem I had with the copy I saw wasn’t the fault of the original filmmakers at all; the musical soundtrack is one of those that feels as if it was carelessly slapped on without care or appropriateness, so you end up (for example) with sprightly happy music during a scene where a woman is being kidnapped by an Oriental white slavery racket. Even a weak silent movie deserves better care than that.

Still, since the movie lacks the overt miracles I was expecting, the question becomes whether it really qualifies for this project in terms of its fantastic content. It depends somewhat on how you interpret one scene; the tycoon-turned-derelict sees the martyrdom of a saint reenacted in a painting that comes to life. Is he imagining it or actually seeing it? The movie isn’t quite clear in that regard, so I suspect that this movie is at best only marginally fantastic. It’s probably best classified as a drama.

The Black Imp (1905)

aka Le diable noir
Article 4040 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-25-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Tumbling imps in haunted hotel rooms

A traveler tries to settle in for the night in a room at the inn, unaware that the place is already home to a mischievous black demon who doesn’t care to share.

This short combines a couple of Melies’s favorite subjects; namely, that rooms at inns are hotbeds of paranormal activity and that all the troubles in our lives can be attributed to evil tumbling imps. There’s some fun to be had with this one, especially when the traveler finds himself being chased around the room by multiplying chairs. This is probably one of Melies’s funniest shorts.

The Big Swallow (1901)

Article 4039 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-23-2012
Directed by James Williamson
Featuring Sam Dalton
Country: UK
What it is: Shocking!

A passerby takes drastic measures to keep from being filmed.

Is it the birth of the cannibal film? Is it a suggested strategy for people who want to know how to deal with paparazzi? Or is it just a pretty silly idea for a silent short? I will say this much for it; it does use one of the most interesting close-ups in film history. And even if the movie does deal with the subject of cannibalism, the big question on my mind is whether the main character will be able to digest the camera with ease. This one is pretty surreal when all is said is done.

Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions (1933)

Article 4038 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-22-2012
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Featuring the voice of Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Animated comedy

Betty Boop serves as a hostess in a tentful of new inventions. All goes well until a self-threading sewing machine goes on a rampage.

Except in her very early incarnations (where she was a dog), the presence of Betty Boop in a cartoon does not necessarily make it fantastically themed; she is, after all, a human being, albeit one with a rather odd shape. However, the cartoon also features anthropomorphic dog Bimbo, as well as several other non-human animated characters. Furthermore, the inventions move it into the realm of science fiction. This isn’t the series at its most inspired, but it works well enough to get by, with most of the humor involving the ways the various inventions work, such as the stain-removing machine that works by leaving a big hole in the fabric where the stain occurred.