Trick film

In the early history of cinema, trick films were short silent films designed to feature innovative special effects.[1]

History

The trick film genre was developed by Georges Méliès in some of his first cinematic experiments,[2] and his works remain the most classic examples of the genre.[3] Other early experimenters included the French showmen Émile and Vincent Isola, the British magicians David Devant and John Nevil Maskelyne, and the American cinematographers Billy Bitzer and James Stuart Blackton.[4]

In the first years of film, especially between 1898 and 1908, the trick film was one of the world's most popular film genres.[1] Before 1906, it was likely the second most prevalent genre in film, surpassed only by nonfiction actuality films.[5] Techniques explored in these trick films included slow motion and fast motion created by varying the camera cranking speed; the editing device called the substitution splice; and various in-camera effects, such as multiple exposure.[4]

"Trick novelties," as the British often called trick films, received a wide vogue in the United Kingdom, with Robert W. Paul and Cecil Hepworth among their practitioners. John Howard Martin, of the Cricks and Martin filmmaking duo, produced popular trick films as late as 1913, when he began doing solo work. However, British interest in trick films was generally on the wane by 1912, with even an elaborate production like Méliès's The Conquest of the Pole received relatively coolly.[6]

Elements of the trick film style survived in the sight gags of silent comedy films, such as Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.[7] The spectacular nature of trick films also lived on in other genres, including musical films, science fiction films, horror films, and swashbuckler films.[4]

Style

Trick films should not be confused with short silent films that feature conventional stage magic acts ("films of tricks," in the words of the film historian Matthew Solomon). Instead, trick films create illusions using film techniques.[8]

Trick films generally convey a sprightly humor, created not so much by jokes or comedic situations as by the energetic whimsy inherent in making impossible events seem to occur.[2] As the philosopher Noël Carroll has pointed out, the comedy in Méliès's trick film style is "a matter of joy borne of marvelous transformations and physically impossible events," "a comedy of metaphysical release that celebrates the possibility of substituting the laws of physics with the laws of the imagination."[2]

References

  1. ^ a b Solomon 2006, p. 596
  2. ^ a b c Carroll 1996, p. 146
  3. ^ Kirby, Lynne (1997), Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema, Durham: Duke University Press
  4. ^ a b c Parkinson, David (2012), 100 Ideas That Changed Film, London: Laurence King Publishing, p. 19
  5. ^ Gunning, Tom (2005), "The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde", in Knopf, Robert (ed.), Theater and Film: A Comparative Anthology, New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 39
  6. ^ Low, Rachael (1997), History of British Film, 2, London: Routledge, p. 180
  7. ^ Carroll 1996, p. 156
  8. ^ Solomon 2006, pp. 602–3

Citations

  • Carroll, Noël (1996), Theorizing the Moving Image, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Solomon, Matthew (December 2006), "Up-to-Date Magic: Theatrical Conjuring and the Trick Film", Theatre Journal, 58 (4): 595–615, doi:10.1353/tj.2007.0032, JSTOR 25069917
A Fantastical Meal

A Fantastical Meal (French: Le Repas fantastique) is a 1900 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès. It was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 311 in its catalogues.The film was imitated by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company film An Animated Luncheon.

A Nightmare

A Nightmare (French: Le cauchemar) is a short silent trick film created and released in 1896 and directed by Georges Méliès. It was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 82 in its catalogues, where it was advertised as a scène fantastique. The film was shot outside in the garden of Méliès's property in Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, with painted scenery. Méliès plays the sleeping man.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; or, Held for Ransom

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; or, Held for Ransom is a 1905 American silent film directed by J. Stuart Blackton for Vitagraph Studios. It was the second film based on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, following the 1900 Mutoscope trick film Sherlock Holmes Baffled, and is usually regarded as the first attempt to film a "serious" Holmes adaptation. The scenario was by Theodore Liebler based on elements of Conan Doyle's novel The Sign of the Four.Robert Pohle notes that "Deprived of his voice in those early silent films, Holmes was also transformed from an intellectual, armchair detective into a more kinetic action figure—almost a sort of cowboy-in-deerstalker."Although sometimes considered a lost film, fragments are still extant in the Library of Congress paper print collection. The film was shot on 35mm black-and-white film, running to one reel of 725 feet in length.

Adventures of William Tell

Adventures of William Tell (French: Guillaume Tell et le clown) is an 1898 French short black-and-white silent trick film, directed by Georges Méliès, featuring a clown trying to shoot fruit off the head of a dummy which comes to life. The film is, "a knockabout farce based on jump-cuts and the timely substitution of dummies for real bodies," with, according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, "a level of onscreen violence not previously seen in a surviving Méliès film," which marks, "a bridge between the onstage effects of the famous Théâtre du Grand Guignol and countless later outpourings of comically extreme screen violence as seen in everything from Tex Avery cartoons to the early films of Sam Raimi."It was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 159 in its catalogues, where it was advertised as a scène comico-fantastique.

Is Spiritualism a Fraud?

Is Spiritualism a Fraud? (AKA: The Medium Exposed) is a 1906 British short silent drama film, directed by Walter R. Booth (also credited to J.H. Martin), featuring a medium exposed as a fake during a séance. The trick film is, "one of the last films made by R.W. Paul in collaboration with the trick-film specialist W.R. Booth," and according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, "combines elements of the previous year's The Unfortunate Policeman with a special effects sequence. However, unlike Booth and Paul's other work, here the mechanisms are deliberately revealed," "the crucial difference between his illusions and those of a medium is that Booth's audience knew that they were being deceived, but were happy to go along with the charade for the sake of both entertainment and the pleasure of working out how it was done."

James Williamson (film pioneer)

James A. Williamson (8 November 1855 – 18 August 1933) was a Scottish photographer and a key member of the loose association of early film pioneers dubbed the Brighton School by French film historian Georges Sadoul. He is best known for The Big Swallow (1901), a trick film with innovative use of extreme close-up, as well as Fire! and Stop Thief! (both 1901), dramas with continuity established across multiple shots.

Magic Trick (film)

Magic Trick is a short film made in 1953 by Orson Welles, for use in a show by magician Richard Himber. It involves Welles on-screen interacting with Himber off-screen as the two play a card trick, and would have been projected life-size (in black and white) during Himber's touring stage show in the 1950s.

It was the first time Welles had filmed any magic tricks since his segment in the 1944 film Follow the Boys (which in turn used tricks Welles originally staged in the 1943 The Mercury Wonder Show); and from the late 1960s onwards, Welles would perform more of these tricks in public, most notably in The Orson Welles Show (1979) and Orson Welles' Magic Show (1976-85).

Pillar of Fire

Pillar of Fire can refer to:

Pillar of Fire (theophany), a manifestation of God in the Tanakh

Pillar of Fire International, a Christian organization

Pillar of Fire (novel) by Judith Tarr

Pillar of Fire (documentary), mini series on the history of Zionism and Israel

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963–65, the second volume of Taylor Branch's trilogy on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pillar of Fire and Other Plays by Ray Bradbury

A short story included in the anthology S Is for Space

Pillar of Fire (ballet) by Antony Tudor

Pillar of Fire (sculpture), an outdoor sculpture in Washington, D.C.

A sculpture of stylized flames by Egon Weiner at the site of origin of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871

The Pillar of Fire, an 1899 French short silent trick film

Pygmalion and Galatea (1898 film)

Pygmalion and Galatea (French: Pygmalion et Galathée) is an 1898 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès, based on the ancient Pygmalion myth.

The '?' Motorist

The '?' Motorist is a 1906 British short silent comedy film, directed by Walter R. Booth. It features a motorist on the run from the police. during which he drives along clouds, around the Moon, and around the rings of Saturn before landing through the roof of a courthouse. The trick film is, "one of the last films that W.R. Booth made for the producer-inventor R.W. Paul," and according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, "looks forward to the more elaborate fantasies that Booth would make for Charles Urban between 1907 and 1911, as well as drawing on a wide range of the visual tricks that Booth had developed over the preceding half-decade."

The Automatic Motorist

The Automatic Motorist is a 1911 British short silent comedy film, directed by Walter R. Booth, featuring a robot chauffeur taking an inventor and a young honeymooning couple on a wild ride around the planets and under the sea. The trick film is a, "virtual remake of The '?' Motorist (1906)," according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, "but on a bigger scale."

The Bewitched Inn

The Bewitched Inn (French: L'auberge ensorcelée) is an 1897 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès. It was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 122–123 in its catalogs.

The Famous Box Trick

The Famous Box Trick (French: Illusions Fantasmagoriques; Star Film Catalogue no. 155.) is a 1898 French short black-and-white silent trick film, directed by Georges Méliès, featuring a stage magician who transforms one boy into two with the aid of an axe. The film, "harks back to stage magic," and, according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, "can be viewed as a kind of sequel to The Vanishing Lady (Escamotage d’une dame chez Robert-Houdin, 1896) in that it reprises many of the same elements."

The Magician (1898 film)

The Magician (French: Le Magicien; Star Film Catalogue no. 153.) is a 1898 French short black-and-white silent trick film, directed by Georges Méliès, featuring a wizard, a Pierrot and a sculptor in a rapid series of jump cuts. The film is, "another exercise in the art of the jump-cut," according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, "in the tradition of Georges Méliès' earlier A Nightmare (Le Cauchemar, 1896) and The Haunted Castle (Le Château hanté, 1897)."

The Monster (1903 film)

The Monster (French: Le Monstre) is a 1903 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès.

The Mysterious Knight

The Mysterious Knight (French: Le Chevalier mystère) is an 1899 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès.

The Pillar of Fire

The Pillar of Fire (French: Danse du feu), initially released in America and Britain as Haggard's "She"—The Pillar of Fire and also known as La Colonne de feu, is an 1899 short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès.

The Vanishing Lady

The Vanishing Lady or The Conjuring of a Woman at the House of Robert Houdin (French: Escamotage d'une dame chez Robert-Houdin) is an 1896 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès.

Trick (film)

Trick is a 1999 American gay-themed romantic comedy film directed by Jim Fall and starring Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc, Miss Coco Peru, and Tori Spelling. Independently produced by Eric d'Arbeloff, Ross Katz, and Fall, the film was written by Jason Schafer. Trick premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1999 and was later released theatrically by Fine Line Features that July.

A sequel is planned for 2019.

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