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The Devil's Castle (1896) - Georges Méliès

Related: 1896 - horror films - French cinema - early film - Georges Méliès

Poster for Le manoir du diable/The Devil's Castle (1896) - Georges Méliès
Image sourced here.


Le Manoir du diable (The Devil's Castle) is a two minute long French film directed by Georges Melies. The film contained many traditional pantomime elements and was intentionally meant to amuse people, rather than frighten them.

It was released on Christmas Eve, 1896, at the Theatre Robert Houdin, 8 boulevard des Italiens, Paris. It was from this two minute short that the horror film was born.

The film starts off with a large bat flying into a medieval castle. Once in, the bat circles slowly while flapping its monstrous wings before suddenly changing into Mephistopheles. After preparing a cauldron, the demon produces skeletons, ghosts, and witches from its bubbling contents before one of the summoned underworld cavaliers holds up a crucifix and Satan vanishes in a blast of smoke. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Manoir_du_diable [Aug 2006]

Richard Scheib review

Plot: A bat appears and transforms into The Devil. The Devil manifests a cauldron and conjures several illusions forth to torment two passing friends. But they eventually get the upper hand and banish him using a crucifix.

At heart though, Méliès’s films though were little more than glorified magic shows. Amid all of his discoveries, for example, Melies never discovered the concept of moving his camera. His shows were exactly like stage shows where the camera remained in a fixed position in exactly the same place that the audience would sit and the trick effects would take place on the stage before it.

The Devil’s Manor was one of his early films and in this case he is simply playing with stop-action camera effects. These allow the Devil to appear and manifest all manner of items – ghosts, witches, acrobats and angelic visions from out of a cauldron – and to transform back and forth into a bat. The film is on a single note, but it is made with a sense of humour, most amusingly the end crucifix joke, which is probably the first use of a crucifix to despatch evil in a film. The film lasts about two minutes and has only a single camera set-up. --Richard Scheib 1990 via http://www.moria.co.nz/fantasy/devilsmanor.htm [Dec 2005]

See also: horror film - Georges Méliès - 1896

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