The Enchanted Drawing (1900)

Article 4119 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-29-2012
Directed by J. Stuart Blackton
Featuring J. Stuart Blackton
Country: USA
What it is: Early trick short

An artist draws a face and several items on a large pad. The face reacts as the artist pulls the various items from the pad and uses them.

This is a simply conceived but well-executed trick film. It’s basically the simple trick of stopping the camera and substituting new items, but it’s done with a sense of wit. It isn’t quite an animated film, but it does point in the direction of animation and can be seen as a film connecting the dots between animation and the simple substitution trick. Blackton himself seems at ease as the artist at work, and this also makes the short fun to watch.

Explosion of a Motor Car (1900)

Article 4098 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-5-2012
Directed by Cecil M. Hepworth
Featuring Cecil M. Hepworth, Henry Lawley
Country: UK
What it is: Black comedy

An overcrowded motor car explodes on a city street, leaving a local policeman with the unpleasant job of sorting out the mess afterwards.

This movie dovetails nicely with yesterday’s movie. Once again, the movie isn’t a horror movie; exploding motor cars don’t automatically qualify as horror, or else I’d have to contend with ninety percent of the action movies ever made for this project. But since the explosion results in the blowing to pieces of the passengers (with a sequence in which the body parts rain down from the sky), we find ourselves immersed in another common horror theme in much the same way that the decapitation in yesterday’s movie did. Granted, this movie plays it less for horror and more for black comedy, especially as the annoyed policeman sorts through the body parts to figure which part goes with which. This may make the movie one of the earliest black comedies in existence, and I did find myself both appalled and amused at the same time.

The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)

Article 4097 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-4-2012
Directed by Alfred Clark
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Historical reenactment

Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed.

No, it’s not a horror movie in the strict sense. However, if you keep in mind that this is the first movie to feature an on-screen decapitation, than it does serve at least as a touchstone of horror themes. It’s only 21 seconds long, and at first, I didn’t see the edit during the execution sequence, making me suspect that the trick was done with a person with a fake head. On reviewing it, I saw my mistake; the edit took place when I wasn’t expecting it.

Well, this made for a quick day of movie watching.

Escape (1937)

ESCAPE (1937)
Animated short
Article 4095 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-1-2012
Directed by Mary Ellen Bute, Bill Nemeth and Ted Nemeth
No cast
Country: USA
What it is: Abstract musical short

While Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” plays, a triangle tries to escape an abstract prison.

The above plot description can be taken very loosely; it’s merely my interpretation of the visual scenes in this abstract musical short. Whether this can strictly be called genre, I’m not sure, but it could be argued that when the action gets this abstract, it falls into the realms of fantasy. At only four minutes long, it’s tight enough that the concept doesn’t wear out its welcome, and I quite enjoyed the short; in fact, it looks somewhat more modern than its 1937 date would indicate. Yet I remembered that I had already seen an abstract interpretation of the musical piece in question; for the record, the first segment of Disney’s FANTASIA was also an abstract visualization of the same piece. Yet this short predates that movie by four years. Is there a chance that Disney may have gotten the idea for that sequence from this little short? I can’t say for sure, but it is food for thought.

The Enchanted Well (1903)

aka Le puits fantastique
Article 4094 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-30-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Amusing fantasy short

When the owner of a local well refuses to give an old crone a handout, she curses his well so that it is inhabited by demons.

This Melies short has more plot than his “magician” shorts, though the plot is a pretty simple revenge one; a man offends a witch, and pays the price. It’s a fun but typical Melies short with the well going through various transformations, and demons and monsters appearing out of it to torment the owner. Oddly enough, there’s no tumbling imps in this one, but that’s only because they appear in frog costumes, so we’re treated to tumbling amphibians. The owner is also attacked by what looks like an early version of Ollie (as in Kukla, Fran and…). It’s a good example of some of Melies’s lighter work.

The Enchanted Sedan-Chair (1905)

aka La chaise a porteur enchantee
Article 4092 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-28-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Magic film

A magician performs several tricks, some of which involve a sedan-chair.

This is another one of Melies’s “magician” shorts; these are ones where he appears as a magician and does a series of cinematic tricks. Though any individual one of these shorts may be fun, the cumulative effect is less interesting, as many of them are pretty interchangeable. This one is well done enough, but I didn’t see any new tricks that he hadn’t illustrated before, and there really isn’t much in the way of surprises. It’s Melies churning out product.

E piu facile che un cammello… (1950)

aka His Last Twelve Hours
Article 4030 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 9-12-2012
Directed by Luigi Zampa
Featuring Jean Gabin, Elli Parvo, Antonella Lualdi
Country: France / Italy
What it is: Fantasy drama

When an industrialist dies suddenly, he discovers that the way to heaven is blocked due to bad deeds he has done during his life. He is given twelve hours to return to Earth and do a good deed, but this may prove more difficult than it seems…

This movie has been sitting on my hunt list for a couple of years, but it finally popped up on YouTube, which goes to show that patience can pay off. Unfortunately, it’s in Italian without English subtitles. I read a couple of plot descriptions that helped me with the basic storyline, so I wasn’t completely lost; however, it’s one of those stories that gains most of its flavor from details that are lost to me due to the language barrier. Therefore, I can’t really give an honest opinion of the movie other than to say that it seems passable but hardly great, and though it has a couple of interesting visual moments, it’s hardly enough to compensate for the language barrier. There’s little more that I can say other than this one is now checked off my list.