1897: The X-Ray Fiend

The X-Ray Fiend
R: George Albert Smith. D: Laura Bayley, Tom Green. P: George Albert Smith Films. UK 1897
Print: BFI

“Smith was (…) the director of The X-Rays (sometimes called The X-Ray Fiend), a film that is a perfect example of early British film’s triple charm. It boasts technical achievement, attention to detail, and wit in abundance and it fits all this into just under a minute of screen time. (…) The film has period charm to spare. While the skeleton costumes are often described as bodysuits, Laura Bayley’s skeleton outfit is clearly a long black dress with individual legs painted on. Victorian modesty prevails, even in x-rays! (Bayley was the wife of director George Albert Smith.) X-rays came to public attention in 1895 thanks to the research of Wilhelm Roentgen and were first used under clinical conditions in 1896, just one year before The X-Rays was released. Needless to say, they became a sensation. Citizens with the wherewithal could purchase DIY x-ray kits with which they could photographed the skeletons of fish, nails in shoes and the bones of their own hands. It is possible that the man wielding the machine in The X-Rays was meant to represent an over-enthusiastic amateur scientist or photographer. (The grisly postscript to all this is that x-rays were hardly the harmless gimmick that almost everyone believed them to be.) X-rays were just as big on the screen as they were in the real world. French directors Alice Guy and Georges Méliès both released their own x-ray films in 1898. (Méliès’ film is sometimes listed as having both 1897 and 1900 release date but it definitely follows the Smith picture chronologically.) Méliès opted for a science fiction-horror approach, with the skeleton actually being extracted from the subject’s body, while Guy goes for comedy with x-rays being used to expose a smuggler posing as a pregnant woman.”
Fritzi Kramer
Movies Silently

>>> George Albert Smith on this site

>>> Le squelette joyeux (Auguste and Louis Lumière) on this site

Dr. Macintyre’s X-Ray Film
No credits. UK 1896 / 1909

“The first X-ray cinematograph film ever taken, at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and shown by Dr. John Macintyre at the London Royal Society 1897.
Shots of X-ray picture of frog’s knee joint (.11); X-ray radiograph of adult, each picture taken in the 300th part of a second. A series of these pictures enable us to see a complete cycle of the movements of the heart. The movements of the digestive organs can also be seen, and the joints of the body, thus facilitating diagnoses of disease of the bones and joints. Shots of X-ray picture of human heart beat (.29) [c1909] Movement of the stomach after Bismuth Meal. Shots of same (.40)”
National Library of Scotland

>>> Nature / Science