Le Manoir du diable & Le Château hanté – Short Films

Lately, I have been watching a lot of  George Méliès short films, so I decided I would slowly start writing my thoughts on all of the one’s I’ve watched. These posts will work more like a written log rather than a review for the film. If you want me to also right reviews (which will be particularly hard, you can tell me in the comment section.)

Le Manoir du diable, was a short film created by George Méliès and it was first published either in 1896 or 1897. This film was thought to be lost, but in 1988 a copy of the film was found in the New Zealand film archive. The story in the film is fairly simple, there is a haunted castle where Mephistopheles and his assistant (who looks a bit creepy if you ask me) create a woman. Later on in the film we see two wealthy males -they looked like aristocrats to me, but I might be wrong- who enter the house and start getting haunted by the assistant at first. One of them flees while the other is left to deal with the skeleton that suddenly appears. The skeleton then turns into a bat, which turns into Mephistopheles (similar to the start of the film) who conjures four ghosts (or five, later on) to scare the man. The woman from the cauldron appears next who appears to dazzle him with her looks or something along those lines. Mephistopheles appears again and he changes his appearance a couple of times. At the same time, the man who had fled returns only to commit suicide (or flee) by jumping off the balcony -weird, I know- and the ghosts re-appear (I think they’re five this time.)  Anyway, at the end the man finds a cross and Mephistopheles disappears.

Alright, my description might not be the best, but it is so hard to describe what is going on in his films. I am going to attempt to describe Le Château hanté, which is much shorter and simpler.

Basically, two men enter a room and one of the men offers the other a chair to sit on and then exits the room. The man attempts to sit but the chair moves further away from him. He attempts to sit again and a ghost appears to be sitting on the chair. He attacks it with his sword and it turns to a skeleton. He walks towards it to examine it and it turns into an armour, which then disappears. A daemon (or Satan or maybe the same as in the first one) appear and the man attempts to flee but is stopped by a ghost.

Generally, I am amazed by the “special effects” that he used at the time. The appearance and reappearance of things in the haunted houses, the ghosts and the transformations. Honestly, everything is great and the stories are so interesting (even though some times, really hard to understand.) Le Château hanté was actually the first film of his to be coloured, which is so nice. I know later on many of his films where coloured and that just adds to the vibrancy of the film. This films where made both translated as The Haunted House in English (on produced in 1896/1897 and the other in 1897.)

I am always amazed to watch films that are so old. It is truly magnificent how he managed to create a full story in less than 5 minutes with no words or music. Personally, I liked Le Manoir du diable more, mostly because you never knew what was coming. It is also significantly longer -about 2 min longer, which at that time made a difference- which allows for a lot more space for the story to unfold.

Have you watched any of Méliès films? If yes, which one is your favourite?



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