Early Surrealism

The Thieving Hand
R: J. Stuart Blackton. D: Paul Panzer. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1908
Print: George Eastman House

The Thieving Hand amalgamates some of the most interesting ideas that we have encountered in the films of the first decade of the twentieth century; one can find the visual trickery of Méliès, the comic timing of Max Linder, the narrative sequencing of Porter and the playfulness of Blackton’s own animation work. The film shares certain surrealist elements with Porter’s Dream of a Rarebit Fiend; however, the surrealist aspects of The Thieving Hand are less explicit but more comic.
The film involves a one-armed street cobbler helping an upper class man (whose hat and cigar bear an uncanny resemblance to Max Linder in Le Premier Cigare d’un Collegien), who repays the favour by purchasing him an arm from a limb shop. The otherworldliness of the limb shop juxtaposes with the previous scene on the street in an unerring manner that Méliès’ shorter films do not quite manage. The use of a false limb functions in a more subtle and effective manner than one of Méliès’ demons; the limb also manages to function as the proverbial devil on the shoulder of the protagonist (or perhaps even, the protagonist’s subconscious) and land him in trouble.
The film successfully synergises the aforementioned influences and styles and delivers a simple and thoroughly enjoyable film. In fact, I would suggest that it is an excellent ‘entry point’ for films from this decade. It is thoroughly engaging for a first time viewer, while also alluding to much of the best work of this decade.”
Film: Ab Initio

Le premier cigare d’un collegien
R: Louis J. Gasnier. D: Max Linder. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1908

>>>Dream of a Rarebit Fiend on this site: Borderline Cinema