Obscure Films: “The Merry Frolics Of Satan” (1906)

One of my very favorite Georges Méliès films is Les Quat’Cents Farces du diable, literally translated as The 400 Tricks of the Devil. We just call it The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906), which is a title truly of its time. So is the film itself, but that’s why I love it so much.

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While not as widely discussed as A Trip to the Moon and more familiar from clips turning up in documentaries on early cinema, it’s one of Méliès’s most elaborate works and a real treat for the eyes. Its plot can be…quite mystifying even if you’re paying close attention, so here’s a detailed recap (I believe some of the information originally came from the Star Film Company’s catalog): Continue reading

Georges Méliès And The Féerie

There is much to love about Georges Méliès. He was a technical wizard, a delightful performer, and an artist whose gorgeous work can still inspire awe.  And charmingly, he was a man who believed in dreams. He captured many of them on the screen, one painted set at a time, and today they serve as reminders of an era more open to wonder.

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Méliès’s films have a knack for taking us out of our comfort zones in the most enchanting way possible. They’re so old-timey to our eyes that they could almost come from a different planet. At times, we have to remind ourselves to stop holding them at arm’s length.

But to filmgoers in Méliès’s own time, the filmmaker’s work was not only exceptional but also familiar. In fact, he was drawing upon a long history of theatrical enchantment–specifically, the French theater genre of the féerie. Continue reading

Thoughts On: “The Four Troublesome Heads” (1898)

Well over a century old and only over a minute long, Un homme de têtes is one of Georges Méliès’s earliest and best-known worksI think the French title literally translates to “a man of heads,” but we know it today as The Four Troublesome Heads. Either way it’s one of your oddly blunt 1890s silent film titles. Classic 1890s cinema, am I right? Haw!

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Georges Méliès: Pioneer Of Cinematic Spectacle

[His films] had a visual style as distinctive as Douanier Rousseau or Chagall, and a sense of fantasy, fun and nonsense whose exuberance is still infectious…. —David Robinson

His full name was Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, and he was born on December 8, 1861 in beautiful Paris. His wealthy parents, Jean-Louis-Stanislas Méliès and Johannah-Catherine Schuering, owned a successful factory for high-quality boots. Their parents imagined that Georges and his older brothers Henri and Gaston would simply take over the family business one day. But little did they know that Georges would not only take up a cutting-edge industry they had never even imagined, but that he would attain global fame as one of its greatest pioneers.

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A Great Big THANK YOU And A Round Of Applause!

The Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon has come to a close, and I wanted to say:

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Yes, you are seeing that correctly. That is the world’s most mindblowing photo of Buster Keaton, LAUGHING OUT LOUD for the world to see!! (Look at his TEETH!! WHEN DO YOU EVER GET TO SEE THOSE.) I first saw a copy of it thanks to historian Ed Watz, and this particular one was illustrating a 1930s magazine story about Buster directing shorts for MGM. It was published in March 1938 (I don’t know the magazine unfortunately–let me know if you do!) Continue reading

Analyzing The Molasses Scene From “The Butcher Boy”

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This is my own post for the Third Annual Busterthon–hope you enjoy!

It’s one of the most famous scenes in all of silent comedy–the “can of molasses” scene from the Roscoe Arbuckle short The Butcher Boy (1917). This had the honor of being former vaudevillian Buster Keaton’s very first scene ever committed to celluloid. He always spoke of it with fondness and in his later years he enjoyed reenacting it for TV shows. And significantly, he would say that it had been done in one take. He’s often quoted from his autobiography, My Wonderful World of Slapstick:

Incidentally, I’ve been told that my first scene in The Butcher Boy is still the only movie-comedy scene ever made with a newcomer that was photographed only once. In other words my film debut was made without a single retake.  p. 93.

Having watched The Butcher Boy approximately 458 times, I now wonder: if we examined the gag frame-by-frame, could we discover how this seemingly simple scene was put together? And was the entire molasses scene done in one take? Can we spot any clues that would prove it? Clear your schedules, my friends, ’cause this is about to get detailed.

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The Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon – Celebrating 100 Years of Buster!

IT IS HERE.

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UPDATE 2/21/17: The third and final day of the blogathon is here! New posts are up and ready for viewing, enjoy!

For the third year in a row we’re celebrating the work of our genius in slapshoes, the one and only Buster Keaton. His work is timeless, his mark on film history irreplaceable, and of course, he was the master of making us laugh. And this time around we are also commemorating a special year: the centennial of Buster’s entry into films, a milestone year that will never come again.

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100 years ago Buster agreed to play a scene in Roscoe Arbuckle’s brand new Comique two-reeler. And movie audiences have been falling for his talent and humor ever since.

Bloggers: Please send me the link to your post whenever it’s ready today, tomorrow, or Tuesday. I’ll be updating periodically throughout the blogathon. Don’t forget that I’ll be holding a drawing for all participants, the winners receiving a either a $25 gift certificate to Buster Stuff, a copy of Imogene Sara Smith’s book The Persistence of Comedy, or the DVD set Industrial Strength Keaton! The drawing will be held on February 22.

Readers: Drop by often to see the latest posts–and don’t forget that we bloggers adore comments. And when you’re finished reading all the wonderful posts, why not pop in a few Buster films? It’s BK100, y’all–let’s celebrate!

And once again, here are the links to the First and Second Annual Buster Blogathons.

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The Roster:

Silent-ology: Analyzing the Molasses Scene From The Butcher Boy 

Silver Screenings: Steamboat Bill, Jr. or Buster Keaton and the Important Things in Life

Special Purpose Movie Blog: The General: Factual or Fictional?

MovieMovieBlogBlog: For the Love of Buster Keaton

Grace Kingsley’s Hollywood: An Early Keaton Fan: Grace Kingsley

Big Riot V Squad: Buster Keaton: From Stage to Screen

Finding Nelson Evans: Keaton’s Leading Ladies in Pictures

Caftan Woman: Review of the books Keep Your Eye on the Kid, Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton, and Keaton Comedies: A Toby Bradley Adventure

Silent Locations: Amazing New Keaton Discoveries: My Wife’s Relations

Life’s Daily Lessons BlogA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 

Little Bits of Classics: Chaplin and Keaton: Two Friends in the Limelight

Popcorn Optional: Buster Keaton: A Wonderful World of Slapstick

Welcome To My Magick Theatre: Buster Goes to College

Senseless Cinema: The Haunted Worlds of Buster Keaton

An Ode to Dust: Buster Keaton: In the Works (Graphic novel project)

Century Film ProjectOh Doctor!

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie ReviewsOur Hospitality

Critica Retro: Review of My Wonderful World of Slapstick

The Fyuzhe: On Buster’s Television Work

Hometowns to Hollywood: Buster’s Hometown of Piqua, Kansas

Prince of Hollywood: 100 Years of Buster Keaton: The First Films of a Comedy Legend

The Midnite Drive-In: Twilight Zone episode “Once Upon a Time”

The Scribe Files: Buster, Italian Style (or Due Marines e un Maestro)

Christina Wehner: The Joy of Discovering Buster Keaton

The Wonderful World of Cinema: My First Time With Buster Keaton: One Week

The Lonely CriticThe Navigator

Lost Films: “In The Year 2014” (1914)

Few things are more surreal than looking through a 100-year-old movie magazine only to see a title like this staring up at you! One of many, many, many lost films, In the Year 2014 (1914) was a split-reel comedy meant to be enjoyed for a day or two and then replaced by the next comedy.

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Motography, Nov. 7 1914

It was also one of many, many, many Joker comedies from a time when little films were “ground out like sausages,” as the saying often went. Joker, the slapstick branch of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, was created to compete with Keystone comedies. Its films are thought to have been slapdash and silly–“thought,” because unfortunately the majority of them are lost. The titles will fill you with longing: Love, Roses and Trousers, At the Bingville Booster’s Barbecue, The Mechanical Man, and one of my favorites, Lady Baffles and Detective Duck in the Great Egg Robbery.

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And if the longing wasn’t bad enough, the stills always look like so much fun. 

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BLOGATHON UPDATE: The Third Annual Busterthon Is Almost Here!

Silent-ology’s grand Buster celebration is a little over a week away, everyone!! Are you as excited as I am?!

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Quite a few bloggers have signed up for this event, and since 2017 is a special year I’ve gone all out and decided that Silent-ology will be holding not one, not two, but three drawings for all blogathon participants! (The hundred-year anniversary of Buster entering films ain’t happening again, folks!) Here are the prizes: Continue reading