In the 1830’s, the first moving images were produced using revolving drums and disks. Soon, versatile inventors stamped the century with their remarkable talents. Simon Von Stampfer of Austria, responsible for the Stroboscope, Joseph Plateau of Belgium with the Phenakistoscope, and William Horner of Britain with the Zoetrope are all noted for their contributions to the age. It wasn’t until 1895 that a more efficient way to create movies was discovered. In France, Auguste and Louis Lumière designed a hand held motion picture camera they called the Cinematographe. The Lumiere Brothers soon held the first public screening of short films in Paris at a profitable admission fee. The presentation featured ten films, each seventeen meters long, running for approximately fifty seconds. Standing in the audience that day was an aspiring film maker named Georges Méliès.
Slapstick- comedy based on deliberately clumsy actions
Dark Comedy- a comic work that employs black humor
Camp (cheesy)- an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing because of it’s bad taste and ironic value; derives from a french term meaning “to pose in an exaggerated fashion”
Georges Méliès was the world’s first ”Cinemagician.” It’s said that Méliès accidentally discovered how to create an effect on screen that could not be recreated in an onstage play. The early films made by the Lumière Brothers were pretty simple and typically featured the characters acting out everyday life. Méliès’ devised complex special effects using camera techniques expanding his eccentricity with every film. The traits that I look for in film started with his 1 minute long project, A Terrible Night. This piece features a restless, bearded man just trying to get a good night’s sleep. Then this giant bug crawls across his bed and up the wall. He proceeds to smash the creature with a shoe in a very comedic fashion. This piece definitely used dark humor to capture the audience and I consider it the first film in the “camp” genre that wasn’t officially defined until 13 years later. The exaggeration on the size of the beetle reminds me of the creature flicks that boomed in the 1950’s. A Terrible Night is the seed for all films considered cheesy, dark, and just uncomfortably creepy. Its one of four of this stylish director’s early works that survived the years, It’s definitely worth a MINUTE of your time.