Monday, October 3, 2016

A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku - DAY 03: Demons, Hellions & Ghost Brides (1903-1906)

Welcome back, Boils & Ghouls...

... to 'Day Three' of "A Cinematic History of Horror for Hallowe'en On Roku" in which I aim to bring you my next 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 again... and prepare for even more frights! :-O

If you read my special hallowe'en blogathon preview - FOUND HERE - which I published last Friday, 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! ;-)

On Saturday, to get things started, we went all the way back to the end of the 19th century for some of the earliest horror cinema footage ever recorded. The four movies in that inaugural post were from 1895 - 1898 (inclusive) and featured beheadings, vampires, skeletons and nightmarish dreams. For my second article in this month-long series of blog posts, I shared four more films (again, one for each year) from 1899 - 1902 (inclusive) and those featured ghostly apparitions, aliens and selenites, plus a visit from the devil to a convent. In this third post, I have four films (again, one for each year) from 1903 - 1906 (inclusive) and these feature impish devils, demons and ghost brides, plus a man who practices entomology being pinned to a cork like an insect! As with the films shared previously in this series of posts, bearing in mind the time period during which they were made, these are all short films that fall into the silent movie category plus some have visible signs of wear and tear but, despite this, they are all none the less watchable as further examples of early films whose influence can still be seen in far more modern movies from the horror genre...


First up today... is a french short film from 1903, directed by Alice Guy-Blaché, produced by Star-Film and originally released under the title of "Faust et Méphistophélès"... and it doesn't require an expert in linguistics to deduce that for British audiences it translated to, "Faust and Mephistopheles", which is the derivative used for the UK release. The film begins with Faust signing a pact with Mephistopheles... whereby he is supposed to do everything Faust wants (while he is here on Earth) and in exchange Faust will later serve the devil in hell. The storyline is based upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's, "Faust" (Part One), published in 1806... but, as you might expect, covers very little of it within the running time which clocks in at less than two minutes.

Faust et Méphistophélès [aka Faust and Mephistopheles] - 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:- Faust et Méphistophélès (1903) [IMDB Rating: 5.1]

Our next movie is another short film, which went by the title of "The Mistletoe Bough", and was directed by Percy Stow. It was first released in 1904 and based on a tale, believed to have originated in Italy, first written down by Samuel Rogers in 1823. Since then, it appeared in many other forms (poems, ballads, short stories, etc.) and even as a song, co-written by Thomas Haynes Bayley and Sir Henry Bishop, in the 1830s. By the time the film was made, it had been a Christmas tradition to tell the story of "The Mistletoe Bough" for decades... but the writing credit for the movie mentions a poem by E.T. Bayley as the inspiration. Whatever the source, the story begins with a game of hide and seek, during a wedding reception at a stately home, where the bride goes to hide in a heavy chest which she discovers in an unused room. Tragically, she gets trapped inside and, despite the best efforts of her groom and their guests, her corpse is not found... until thirty years later! Again, it's only a short story, but the ghostly bride, historic castle setting and eventual shock discovery of her skeletal remains make this an absolute Gothic classic - watch it, if you dare !! ;-)

The Mistletoe Bough (1904) - PHOTO CREDIT:- The British Film Institute (BFI)

As with Faust et Méphistophélès [aka Faust and Mephistopheles], this film by Percy Stow is in the public domain and, therefore, widely available online as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. For the sake of simplicity, I'm sticking with YouTube as my means of sharing this film with you. Again, please 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, as previously suggested. Either way, here is a link for you to watch it:-

YOUTUBE LINK:- The Mistletoe Bough (1904) [IMDB Rating: 5.6]

PLEASE NOTE:- That, unfortunately, only the "Short Version" of this film has been uploaded by the folks at the BFI, for streaming via their official 'YouTube' channel, so that's all I was able to offer you here. However, the (slightly) longer version has been made available online - via the BFI Player - so, if you have access to that (via PC / Mac, or else apps for your Smart TV or mobile devices) you can watch the full five minute version there. Sadly, there has been no word from the BFI about their developing an Roku channel for 'BFI Player' though (hopefully) one day this will be a reality. Until then, however, these are your only options for watching this film.

Our third movie today is another short film by Georges Méliès, that was first released in France under the original title of "Le Diable Noir"... although, for British audiences, it was afforded the alternative title of "The Black Imp". This time the story revolves around a traveller who arrives at an inn only to be harassed by a mischievous devil in his room. More fantasy comedy than out-and-out horror, but the ghoulish shenanigans and stunts, could well have influenced more recent horror comedy films such as "Evil Dead 2" from the 80's. Anyway, the film begins with the titular 'Black Imp' cavorting in an empty bedroom. It hides in the bureau as the innkeeper and his family escort their guest into the room. As the guest places his coat in the bureau, the imp pops out and begins to chase him around the room. Bedlam ensues, with the room in disarray, and the chase continues to it's incendiary climax!

Le Diable Noir [aka The Black Imp] (1905) - PHOTO CREDIT:-

Just like "Faust et Méphistophélès" [aka Faust and Mephistopheles] plus "The Mistletoe Bough", this fantasy horror comedy from Georges Méliès is also in the public domain and widely available online as well as free-to-stream on Roku devices. As before, I'm going to stick 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.

YOUTUBE LINK:- Le Diable Noir [aka The Black Imp] (1905) [IMDB Rating: 7.2]

Last but by no means least, for today, is another short film from France, this time directed by Gaston Velle, and released in 1906 under the original title of "La Peine Du Talion", but perhaps better known to U.S. audiences as "Tit-for-Tat" - and by the alternative title of "The Talion Punishment" in other parts - it is an excellent example of the early colour stencil films from Pathé, but more of a science-fiction fantasy short than a true horror, per se. The storyline is about a butterfly collector and his two assistants who venture into the woods attempting to capture rare insects. However, the tables are turned when the two assistants are turned into grasshoppers and the lepidopterist is pinned to a cork, in a manner reminiscent of his own treatment of all the butterflies he had captured previously!

La Peine du Talion [aka Tit-for-Tat] (1906) - PHOTO CREDIT: (via

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:- La Peine du Talion [aka Tit-for-Tat] (1906) [IMDB Rating: 6.2]


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 on 'Day Four' 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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