THE HAUNTED CASTLE (U.S.) (aka – THE DEVIL’S CASTLE (U.K.)


The-Haunted-Castle-18971896

CANDLES 7

DIRECTOR: Georges Méliès

Well, to start with, as of today, this is the oldest film that I have reviewed, having being released 119 years ago. Made six years before Méliès made his masterpiece Le Voyage Dune La Lune (1902)This is a simple tale of a haunted castle. By today’s standards this is nothing more than a visual effects showreel but back in end of the 19th century, literally at the birth of Cinema, this must have been as mystifying as it was innovative.

Using simple editing and in-camera effects, Méliès creates a vibrant show, granted it is not much more than single scene with a fixed camera but the effects which he is inventing here are quite kinetic and demonstrate the potential of the medium as well as the man himself, most of whom’s work has been lost, believed to have been melted down to release the metals in the celluloid to produce arms during the First World War.

Shocking by today’s archival standards but no more so than the BBC’s wiping of video tapes during the 1960’s/70’s in an early recycling bid! The film itself though is remarkable, mainly for its effects. And it also hold the honour of being effectively, if only for the genre rather than the tone itself, the world FIRST horror film.

It is not the least bit scary and it was never intended to be, being more a pantomime than anything else, but it is a short, by today’s standards, but long by those of 1896, attempt to introduce the potential of showmanship, visual effects and flare to the budding film industry of the time.

Not a masterpiece but interesting none the less. The film was presumed lost up until 1988, when it was rediscovered in a New Zealand Film Archive. I wonder how many more lost films will turn up over time?

You can watch the film here, all three and half minutes of it here. Enjoy!

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