The Dwarf and the Giant (1901)

aka Nain et geant
Article 4091 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-27-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies and Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A magician changes himself into two people, one who grows to a giant, and the other who shrinks to a dwarf.

A number of Melies’s early shorts seem to me to be experiments to see what special effects he could pull off. This seems to be one of them. There’s no real story at all; it just illustrates the trick of making one person grow while another person shrinks, and though they interact with each other, there’s no point beyond that. In its own way, it’s an impressive effect for the time, as the growing and shrinking happen at the same time. It’s a minor Melies film, but he does appear to be having fun.

Diabolo Nightmare (1907)

Article 4083 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-19-2012
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Silent comic short

A clerk, addicted to playing the game of Diabolo, wreaks havoc when he wanders about freely playing the game with no attention paid to his surroundings.

I had been led to believe at one time that Diabolo was a popular card game of the period. Maybe it was, but in this short, Diabolo seems to be a novelty puzzle game whereby the player tries to keep a vase-like object suspended in the air using two sticks and a piece of string. This concept wouldn’t inherently push the movie into the fantastic genres, but a couple of moments make it qualify; at one point, he finds himself suspended on a hook from a passing airship, and near the end, he walks into the ocean and shows the game to some mermaids and (I’m assuming) Neptune. There’s no real story; it just wanders from setpiece to setpiece. It’s mildly amusing.

The Diamonds of Kilimandjaro (1983)

aka El tesoro de la diosa blanca, The Treasure of the White Goddess
Article 4076 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-12-2012
Directed by Jesus Franco and Olivier Mathot
Featuring Katja Bienert, Antonio Mayans, Aline Mess
Country: France / Spain
What it is: Jesus Franco does jungle

An expedition sets out to find an heiress who has been missing for many years and is now believed to be living as a wild woman in the jungle. However, some of the people in the expedition stand to inherit the fortune if she is NOT found…

I’m going by faith on the above title; I don’t remember seeing the title of the movie on my print at all. So how is it? Well, if I were to make my list of the ten worst jungle movies I’ve seen, this wouldn’t be on it. Nor would it be on the list of the worst Jesus Franco movies I’ve seen. But bear in mind that I’ve seen so many bad jungle movies and so many bad Jesus Franco movies that that is hardly a guarantee of quality. The story is weak, but it’s not as hackneyed as some of the other jungle movies I’ve seen. There’s plenty of silliness and bad dialogue, to be sure. There’s also a lot of sex and nudity, but then, what did you expect from a Franco film? If it gets by, it’s largely because it’s not as unwatchable as Franco at his worst. In short, though it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it would be, it’s still nothing special.

The Drawing Lesson (1903)

aka La statue animee
Article 4074 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-20-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Melies comic trick short

After an artist finds the ideal place to hold his drawing lesson, a magical practical joker creates a booby-trapped statue on the spot. Hilarity ensues.

Okay, the magical practical joker doesn’t seem to be wearing clown makeup, but I know a clown when I see one, and if there’s anything scarier than a tumbling imp, it’s a clown able to wield magic. I’d say the piece-by-piece creation of the statue is the most entertaining part of this short, though the statue is once again someone standing really still until it’s time for her to move. Though it’s played for comedy, it’s not particularly amusing, and is one of Melies’s weaker shorts.

The Doctor and the Monkey (1900)

aka Le savant et le chimpanze
Article 4073 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-8-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
What it is: Melies comic short

A doctor keeps a monkey in a cage. The monkey breaks loose and wreaks havoc.

If it weren’t for the fact that the monkey’s tail comes off at one point, displays a life of its own, and eventually attaches itself to the doctor’s nose to make him look like he has a trunk, this Melies short would be free of fantastic content. This was one of Melies’s more comic oriented shorts rather than one of his special effects extravaganzas. The most interesting thing about it may be that it takes place in a two-story building, both floors of which are visible at the same time. There’s also a little raciness when the monkey pulls off the skirt of a woman, revealing her bloomers; I think this was racy back then anyway. This one is pretty minor.

The Devilish Plank (1904)

aka La planche du diable
Article 4070 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Melies magic short

A magician performs some tricks with two hollow barrels attached to a plank.

Here’s another of Melies’s magician shorts; these are the ones where a magician performs a magic act using cinematic tricks. In this case, the seemingly empty barrels turn a couple of clowns into a couple of footmen (by changing their clothes), and then produce a couple of women, who vanish back into them. For this point in Melies’s career, this is pretty bare bones stuff.

The Devil in a Convent (1899)

aka Le diable ou couvent
#Article 4069 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-2-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

The devil appears in a convent, and, after frightening some nuns, he conjures up demons and redecorates the place.

No, this isn’t an example of seventies Eurotrash nunsploitation; it’s another Melies short from the silent era. In terms of its basic story, it’s actually quite similar to yesterday’s THE DEVIL AND THE STATUE, but it’s more energetic, more elaborate, and a lot more fun. The special effects come thick and fast in this one, though the imps the devil conjures up don’t partake in any of their trademark tumbling; they mostly just sit there or run around with pitchforks. This is probably the most enjoyable of the various Melies shorts I’ve seen lately.