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Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
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The
Magic of Méliès

(1904-1908)

 

Contents: Le roi du maquillage [The Untamable Whiskers] (1904), Sorcellerie culinaire [The Cook in Trouble] (1904), Le thaumaturge Chinoise [Tchin-Chao, the Chinese Conjurer] (1904), Le merveilleux eventail vivant [The Wonderful Living Fan] (1904), Le sirène [The Mermaid] (1904), Les cartes vivantes [The Living Playing Cards] (1905), Le diable noir [The Black Imp] (1905), La chaise à porteurs enchantée [The Enchanted Sedan Chair] (1905), Le tripot clandestin [The Scheming Gamblers Paradise] (1905), Les affiches en goguette [The Hilarious Posters] (1905), L’Alchimiste parafaragamus ou la cornie infernale [The Mysterious Retort] (1906), L’Eclipse [The Eclipse: The Courtship of the Sun and the Moon] (1907), La colle universelle [Good Glue Sticks] (1907) and La photographie électrique à distance [Long Distance Wireless Photography] (1908).

This second of two DVD compilations culled from the 1994 five-videocassette collection The Movies Begin, produced by David Shepard and released by Kino International, is part of an overview history lesson for film buffs. This DVD program at hand is lifted wholesale from cassette four of that Kino collection and was also previously available on a 1995 laserdisc and is available on DVD. — Carl Bennett

coverKino International
2008 DVD edition

The Magic of Méliès (1904-1908), black & white and hand-tinted color, 103 minutes total, not rated,
including Le Roi du maquillage [The Untamable Whiskers] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Sorcellerie culinaire [The Cook in Trouble] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le thaumaturge Chinoise [Tchin-Chao, the Chinese Conjurer] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le merveilleux eventail vivant [The Wonderful Living Fan] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le sirène [The Mermaid] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Les cartes vivantes [The Living Playing Cards] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le diable noir [The Black Imp] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, La chaise à porteurs enchantée [The Enchanted Sedan Chair] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le Tripot clandestin [The Scheming Gamblers Paradise] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Les Affiches en goguette [The Hilarious Posters] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, L’Alchimiste parafaragamus ou la cornie infernale [The Mysterious Retort] (1906), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, L’Eclipse [The Eclipse: The Courtship of the Sun and the Moon] (1907), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, La Colle universelle [Good Glue Sticks] (1907), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, La Photographie électrique à distance [Long Distance Wireless Photography] (1908), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, and Georges Méliès: Cinema Magician (1978), color and black & white, 20 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K588, UPC 7-38329-05882-1.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, dual-layered DVD disc, Region 1, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.95.
Release date: 22 April 2008.
Country of origin: USA
This new edition of this Méliès program is program-identical to disc four of The Movies Begin boxset from Kino and to the Image edition noted below, and is likely replacing that edition in the marketplace. The disc quality should benefit from its remastering.

The films are accompanied by music performed by Alexander Rannie.

The closing documentary, Georges Méliès: Cinema Magician, serves as an introduction to the cinematic work of Méliès. Its French-accented narration is a drawback, as is the generally moderate quality of the motion picture materials and soundtrack. Inserted into the documentary is a new transfer of a hand-tinted print of Le Voyage travers l’impossible [An Impossible Voyage] (1904).

Consumer note: Despite the packaging design, this disc does not contain A Trip to the Moon (1902); that film is available on other Méliès DVD compilations (see Méliès home video listing below).

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 1 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
This Region 1 NTSC DVD edition is also available directly from KINO LORBER.
coverImage Entertainment
1999 DVD edition

Landmarks of Early Film, Volume 2: The Magic of Méliès (1904-1908), black & white and hand-tinted color, 101 minutes total, not rated,
including Le Roi du maquillage [The Untamable Whiskers] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Sorcellerie culinaire [The Cook in Trouble] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le Thaumaturge Chinoise [Tchin-Chao, the Chinese Conjurer] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le Merveilleux eventail vivant [The Wonderful Living Fan] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le sirène [The Mermaid] (1904), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Les Cartes vivantes [The Living Playing Cards] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le Diable noir [The Black Imp] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, La Chaise à porteurs enchantée [The Enchanted Sedan Chair] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Le Tripot clandestin [The Scheming Gamblers Paradise] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, Les Affiches en goguette [The Hilarious Posters] (1905), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, L’Alchimiste parafaragamus ou la cornie infernale [The Mysterious Retort] (1906), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, L’Eclipse [The Eclipse: The Courtship of the Sun and the Moon] (1907), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, La colle universelle [Good Glue Sticks] (1907), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, La Photographie électrique à distance [Long Distance Wireless Photography] (1908), black & white, ? minutes, not rated, and Georges Méliès: Cinema Magician (1978), color and black & white, 20 minutes, not rated.

Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment,
ID4668DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-46682-9.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc (reissued on DVD-R disc), Region 0, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital stereo and mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, snapper DVD case, $24.99.
Release date: 30 March 1999.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 7 / audio: 7 / additional content: 5 / overall: 6.
The opening documentary, Georges Méliès: Cinema Magician, serves as an introduction to the cinematic work of Méliès. Its French-accented narration is a drawback, as is the generally moderate quality of the motion picture materials and soundtrack. Inserted into the documentary is a new transfer of a hand-tinted print of The Impossible Voyage (1904), which is a companion to the hand-tinted version of A Trip to the Moon (1902) available on Volume 1 of this DVD series.

The Untamable Whiskers (1904) utilizes a series of dissolves between shots of character makeup on Méliès. He draws the intended character on a blackboard then poses as the makeup appears on his face. The Cook in Trouble (1904) is another example of a wizard and Méliès’ stop-action demons causing havoc in a cook’s kitchen. Tchin-Chao, the Chinese Conjurer (1904) features Méliès in Chinese garb and makeup performing stop-action magic.

The Wonderful Living Fan (1904) is a costume piece with a man of royalty being entertained by a large fan that transforms into a fan of beautiful women. The Mermaid (1904) does more of Méliès’ trademark stop-action conjuring before the film turns to its real subject, a mermaid that turns into woman followed by Méliès transforming into Poseidon for the final tableaux. In The Living Playing Cards (1905) Méliès turns a playing to a live queen and back again, before making a king come alive and a surprise ending. The Black Imp (1905) appears to use the same set as another Méliès film . . . another demon causes trouble for a hotel patron.

The Enchanted Sedan Chair (1905) features an unusual combination of dissolve and cutting to create a transformation effect and some very smooth cutting effects. The Scheming Gamblers Paradise (1905) features a gambling parlor that transforms in a matter of seconds when the police are around. The police appropriate the hall for their own use. The Hilarious Posters (1905) features a transformation of paper posters into a series of living characters, but is also the kind of nonsense that 1905 audiences were beginning to get bored with. The Mysterious Retort (1906) a wizard, a snake, an imp, a spider, an apparition and a beautiful woman. What more could you want from a Méliès film?

The Eclipse: The Courtship of the Sun and the Moon (1907) harkens back to Méliès’ earlier fantastical excursions, and may feature the earliest use of intertitles in a Méliès film. Great expressions on the sun’s face. In Good Glue Sticks (1907) two policemen break up the activities of a street merchant selling glue. When the policemen fall asleep on a park bench, the merchant gets his revenge by gluing the two policemen together. In Long Distance Wireless Photography (1908) Méliès is a scientist who demonstrates his new invention.

Ignoring the older prints used in the Méliès documentary, the materials utilized for the video transfers of the short films range from very good to excellent. The print of The Cook in Trouble suffers from occasional frame jitters. Tchin-Chao, the Chinese Conjurer looks as though it was restored from a Library of Congress paper print, which is not a shortcoming. Many of the paper prints held by the Library of Congress have been recopied to 35mm restoration negatives and look almost indistinguishable from original filmstock prints. The Black Imp appears here in a much-improved print from the one utilized for the documentary.

Overall, the program’s appeal is brought down by the documentary, but the generous number of quality Méliès’ films include here makes the disc a worthwhile addition to the silent film enthusiasts’ collection. The edition has been reissued on DVD-R disc.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other GEORGES MÉLIÈS films available on home video.

Other FRENCH FILMS of the silent era available on home video.

Other EARLY FILMS of the silent era available on home video.

Other SHORT DRAMA FILMS of the silent era available on home video.
 
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