Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku - DAY 02: Apparitions, Selenites & The Devil (1899-1902)

Welcome back, Boils & Ghouls...

... to 'Day Two' of "A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku" in which I aim to bring you another batch of fright flicks from the vast back-catalogue of macabre movies that have been thrilling cinema-goers for more than a century and can now be streamed to your television sets via the magic of Roku player - so, let's dim the lights once more... and prepare for some more frights! :-O

If you read my special hallowe'en blogathon preview - FOUND HERE - which I published on Friday, then you'll know that I plan to post one Hallowe'en / Horror related article every day, throughout the month of October, featuring one horror movie per year from cinematic history, starting in 1895 and ending in 2016. This should average out at about four films per day, so you'll have plenty of choice for your macabre movie viewing as we count down the days to Hallowe'en on October 31st! ;-)

Yesterday, to get things started, we went all the way back to the 19th century for some of the earliest horror cinema footage ever recorded on film. The four movies included in that inaugural post were from 1895 - 1898 (inclusive) and featured beheadings, vampires, skeletons and nightmarish dreams. For this second article, I have four films (again, one for each year) from 1899 - 1902 (inclusive) and these feature ghostly apparitions, aliens and selenites, plus a visit from the devil to a convent! Obviously, bearing in mind the time period during which they were made, they are all short films and fall into the silent movie category plus there are visible signs of wear and tear to the film footage but, despite this, they are all none the less watchable as further examples of early horror films whose influence can still be seen in far more modern movies from the genre...

First up today... is a french short film from 1899, directed by Georges Méliès, produced by Star-Film and originally released under the title of "Le Diable Au Couvent"... although British audiences are more likely to have heard of it as, "The Sign of the Cross", which is the alternative title used for the UK release. For the U.S. release, a more literal translation was used... with "The Devil in a Convent" being the name used there. The film begins with what appears to be a priest officiating at a convent. However, it soon becomes apparent that this is the devil... in the guise of a priest who, on showing his true colours, frightens away the nuns and proceeds to cause all manor of perturbation and despair!

Le Diable au Couvent [aka The Sign of the Cross] - PHOTO CREDIT:

As with a lot of these early films, we are fortunate to have copies of them in the public domain... which, for Roku users, means they are widely available on YouTube as well as other free resources for streaming online video. Feel free to watch this movie online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen for maximum shock value! Either way, here it is:-

YOUTUBE LINK: The Sign of the Cross [aka Le Diable Au Couvent] (1899) [IMDB Rating: 6.4]

Our next movie is another short film, which went by the title of "Sherlock Holmes Baffled", and was directed by Arthur Marvin. It was first released in 1900 and is probably best known for being the first Sherlock Holmes movie, rather than having truly solid horror credentials... but, that said, it does have one spooky element - namely, a thief who can disappear in a puff of smoke and then re-appear at will - so, I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and including it here in the absence of anything else.

Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900) - PHOTO CREDIT:

As with "Le Diable au Couvent" [aka The Sign of the Cross] (1899) above, this Arthur Marvin film is also in the public domain and widely available online, as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to stick with YouTube as a means to share this film with you. Again, please feel free to watch this movie online, or else cast it from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen, as previously suggested. Either way, here is a link for you to watch it:-

YOUTUBE LINK: Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900) [IMDB Rating: 5.1]

Our third movie today marks the first British film in this series, which has otherwise been dominated by french films - save for a couple from the USA. This time... it's another tale of ghostly apparitions and mysterious disappearances, directed by Walter R. Booth, and originally released in 1901 under the title of "The Haunted Curiosity Shop", which is the same as that used for the U.S. release in 1902. The film begins with the elderly proprietor of an old curiosity shop, filled with Egyptian artefacts, who is startled by the sudden appearance of a skull. Just as he draws back, the doors of an antique wardrobe fly back and a hand prods him with a sword. From this point onwards follows a succession of split second metamorphoses and character fades as various characters appear and disappear from view. It really is full of camera trickery, given the time it was made, and one of the highlights is when the skull suddenly turns into the half-form of a girl from the waist up, suspended in mid-air, while the other half of the girl (fully dressed from her waist down) crosses the room, and the two halves join!

The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901) - PHOTO CREDIT: unknown

Just like "Le Diable au Couvent" [aka The Sign of the Cross] and "Sherlock Holmes Baffled", this historic gem from Walter R. Booth is also in the public domain and, therefore, widely available online as well as being free-to-stream on Roku devices. As before, I'm going to stick with YouTube as a means of sharing this film. Again, please feel free to watch the movie online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen, as suggested earlier.

YOUTUBE LINK: The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901) [IMDB Rating: 6.0]

Last but by no means least, for today, is another film by Georges Méliès... released in 1902 under the original title of "Le Voyage Dans La Lune", but better known to British audiences under the english title of "A Trip to the Moon", it is more of a science-fiction fantasy adventure short - about a group of men who go on an expedition to the moon, after being shot in a capsule from a giant cannon, and then getting captured by moon-men, before managing to escape, and returning to the earth once more.

Le Voyage Dans La Lune [aka A Trip To The Moon] - PHOTO CREDIT:

Anyway... you probably guessed already but, if not, this film is also in the public domain and, like the other three films in this article, is widely available online as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. As before, I'm sticking with YouTube as my means of sharing this film with you. Again, please feel free to watch the movie online, or use the link to cast from YouTube (via Roku player) and watch it on the big screen, as suggested earlier in this post.

YOUTUBE LINK: A Trip To The Moon [aka Le Voyage Dans La Lune] (1902) [IMDB Rating: 8.2]

There's also another "hand-coloured" version of this film, with an added score, which some of you may prefer. There are many colour copies available online which feature a soundtrack by 'Air' so, if that's more your thing, feel free to search for those links yourselves. Instead, I have chosen to share an alternative version of the hand-coloured print of this movie... one where I feel that the soundtrack is more in keeping with the time period of the film. Besides, as I mentioned during my first post in this series, Méliès would typically not add music scores to his films and was known for allowing each movie theatre to select and play something of their own choosing. So, while this is not the original accompaniment to the movie, I feel that Georges Méliès would have approved of this soundtrack! ;-)

PLEASE NOTE:- This hand-coloured version was uploaded to YouTube by 'A Cinema History' and you can read their full review of the film - VIA THIS LINK - to discover their thoughts on what is widely believed to be the very first science-fiction film ever made.

ALSO:- In case you were wondering... the "Selenites" mentioned in the title of this post are actually the crystal-like "moonstones" which form much of the "terrain" in certain parts of this film. I used the term because I thought it was more appropriate than "moonstones" for an horror-themed post such as this. Besides, it sounds similar to "Cenobites" (as in "Hellraiser", not monasticism) so I went with it! ;-)


Anyhow, that's all I've got time for today... but do remember to come back again tomorrow, for more macabre movies from the history of horror cinema, when I serve-up another batch of four films for 'Day Three' of "A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku" right here on this blog. Meanwhile... please be sure to visit the Countdown To Hallowe'en website & show your support for this annual online Hallowe'en extravaganza PLUS don't forget to use the links you find there and check out all the other 'Cryptkeepers' taking part this year. I know they'll appreciate it if you visit their blogs & share your thoughts on the contribution(s) they've made.


BEFORE I GO: Don't forget that, aside from all the Hallowe'en / Horror-themed ghastliness going on around these parts for the next month, you can always keep up with all the UK Roku action (as it happens) by following the companion Twitter Feed: @ukrokuchannels where you will find that up-to-the-minute info on all things Roku-related is posted on a daily basis (well, almost).

Until the next time, then...

That's all folks !!

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