Borderline Cinema

Rêve à la lune
R: Gaston Velle/Ferdinand Zecca. P: Pathé. Fr 1905

The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
R: Edwin S.Porter/Wallace McCutcheon. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1906

“Dream of  a  Rarebit  Fiend  was partially inspired by Winsor McCay‘s comic strip ‘Dream of  the  Rarebit  Fiend‘, which had appeared in the ‘New York Telegram’ since 1904. Porter not only borrowed the title but shared McCay’s dream-based narrative structure, elements that had already figured in Biograph’s somewhat earlier Dream of the Race-Track Fiend (September 1905). Likewise, the Edison film convincingly realized McCay’s surreal imagery on the screen using a variety of photographic tricks — an achievement not attempted in the earlier Biograph film. Although such visuals had many antecedents, Porter may have found another McCay strip, ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’, a useful point of departure. The basic story line and some of the film’s visuals, however, can be found in an earlier Pathé film made by Gaston VelleRêve à la lune (1905). (…)

The film begins with a medium shot of the fiend consuming large amounts of alcohol and Welsh rarebit. For subsequent scenes, Porter employed a different special effect for each shot, keeping the spectator off balance and making it impossible for the average viewer to figure out how the photographic stunts were achieved. The second shot was a double-exposure, superimposing the fiend and a swinging white lamppost against rapidly panning, zigzagging camerawork of New York City streets. It suggested the subjective sensation of the fiend’s predicament without being a point-of-view shot. When the man enters his bedroom (scene 3) invisible strings drag his shoes across the floor and stop action causes the furniture to disappear. The fourth scene uses a split-screen effect — juxtaposing a close-up of the sleeping fiend with a far shot of people in devils’ costumes, making it appear that they are hitting him on the head with forks and shovels. When Porter cuts back to the room, it is a miniature that allows the filmmaker to manipulate the bed in astonishing ways. The sixth scene uses another type of split screen as the fiend’s bed travels across the skyline of New York. Scene 7 uses a drawn background and cut-outs. Scene 8 is a studio close-up of a steeple on which the fiend is skewered. The final scene returns to the bedroom as the dreamer crashes through the roof and wakes up. The changing tricks and discontinuities disorient the spectators in ways analogous to dream, particularly the dreams portrayed in Winsor McCay’s comic strips.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford 1991, p. 341 f.


A Borderline Chase Comedy:

Une opération mouvementée
R: Unknown. P: Pathé. Fr 1909

“A SURGICAL OPERATION AND ITS AFTER-EFFECTS (1909) was the British (and British Empire) release title of Une opération mouvementée (1909) – the film may well have played under some other title in the US, if it was released there at all. Like you, I think this one is very borderline indeed – it was a ‘chase comedy’ about a man who has a leg amputated at a hospital, and who then ‘hops off’ without paying, being pursued across town by his creditors. The film is considered LOST, and was one of a brief series of shorts produced by Pathé featuring a pair of (genuinely) one-legged acrobats, also including Les unijambistes comiques (‘Those Funny One-Legs’, 1909) and La jambe (‘The Leg’, 1909).”
Classic Horror Film Board