The First Victorian Silent Horror Film

Christmas Eve. Paris. 1896.

The French filmmaker, Georges Melies, premiered, Le Manoir Du Diable ( The House of the Devil) The three-minute long film which depicts a demon conjuring up ghosts and witches is now considered to be the very first horror film ever made.

Previously having worked as a stage magician, Melies was an innovative director who invented the stop trick, a special effect in which an object is captured on film, then moved, so when the camera pans back, it appears that the object has vanished. Nicknamed the “cinemagician”, he also used time-lapses, multiple exposures, and dissolves to great affect.

There is nothing in the short piece to frighten anyone today, and even back then Melies said he had made the picture more to amuse the audience, than to frighten.

Nevertheless, step back into time, and watch it through the eyes of those who first viewed it over a hundred years ago at the Theatre Robert Houdin.

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 10:24 am  Comments (15)  
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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It doesn’t seem to be loading on my computer at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen clips of it on tv, either on shows about Halloween or old movies, or something. How funny that it had its premiere on Christmas Eve! 🙂

  2. I’m not one for scary movies but the impact of this movie on the industry is undeniable.

  3. Very cool. You can definitely see the influence of stage magic.

    I’ve never been able to summon the patience for most the silent film classics, but I did like Nosferatu.

  4. Hey DD,

    I recall “The Turn of the Screw” begins with the characters deciding to tell ghost stories because it’s Christmas Eve.

    Evidently, it was quite popular to do so in the 19th century. 🙂

    I wonder when the tradition started.

  5. Heya Ralfast,

    Indeed. I’m going to have to watch more of his short films to look for the influences.

  6. Hi Haystack,

    I love silents, but do realize they are an accquired taste. If you did like Nosferatu, you might want to check out The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Der müde Tod (Weary Death). The first is more famous nowadays, but while I really do like it, the latter film totally mesmerized me.

    Both are in the public domaine and on youtube.

  7. I like this video. I use to watch movies like this has a kid but with sounds on I will never forget channel 20. Saturdays was Thriller. Thriller is horror, lol. It was only on a few hours and I looked forward to it each weekend. I honestly use to think about how did they do that and accepted it as magic until ofcourse I got older. But it still intrigues me that one man concept as open the door to bigger concept and technology today.

  8. I do like silents and have watched a lot of them (the Detroit Film Theater occasionally shows classic silent flicks in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ beautiful 1927 theater)…but I haven’t seen this one! The only Meilis one I remember seeing is a later (1902 or so) silent about traveling to the moon. Thanks for finding this one and sharing it!

  9. Oh my goodness. Dominique I was raised up in Detroit! Okay you know I have to come swing by your page now to reminisce:))

  10. Hey Vanessa,

    I’m wondering if that Saturday show you watched was the same, or similar to one that I used to love watching. It was called, “Creature Double Feature”. They used to show old vampire and werewolf films.

  11. Hi Dominique!

    Oh, that’s so cool to be able to see them in an old theater!

  12. I think it might be the same but different name. Because yes all the movies were old. Ton of vampires, werewolves, and a lot more. Than after ward an Alfred Hitchcock movie sometime show. I miss it!

    Here is also a link:

  13. I just type yours into youtube, lol, definitely the same with different names, lol, small world I tell you!

  14. This is going to seem like an obvious thing to say, but…horror scares me.

  15. Hee hee.

    Colby, I think that’s what they’re aiming for. 😉

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