Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nightly Frights: The REAL First Horror Movie

Consider this a retraction. Last year, I claimed that the very first horror film ever was Thomas Edison’s 1910 adaptation of "Frankenstein." I was wrong. That was not the very first horror movie. The first one was actually “The Haunted Castle”, and it was filmed 14 years earlier in 1896.

The film itself is rather straightforward: two dudes enter a castle which is being haunted by the devil, who torments them along with the help of a few other ghosts and ghouls. And that’s pretty much the gist of it.

Most film historians claim that it’s the first “horror” movie, but really, the entire film plays off as more of a comedy routine. The film is only three minutes long—which is short even for a YouTube video, but back when it was first created, it was quite the cinematic undertaking.

There was also a shorter colored version of the film that was created one year later. As colored film had yet to be invented, the color aspect of the film was achieved by painfully hand-painting each individual frame.

Both movies were directed by Georges Méliès, who was a pivotal figure in film history. He helped to pioneer the art of cinematography in an effort to shift the then new medium of film from a novelty into an actual storytelling art form.

As a former stage magician, he used his magical prowess to create special effects for his films, thus creating and perfecting many film tricks that are used even to this day, with his most prominent being the stop cut.

Overall, the man created over 500 films in his career, with his most famous being 1902’s A Trip to the Moon. Sadly, of his 500 films, 200 have been lost through time. Film was a new media back then, and was still considered a novelty; as such, most people didn’t think of preserving it. Even this film was considered lost to time until it was discovered in 1988.

The very few films that have been preserved have been considered landmarks in the history of filmmaking, and for his achievements, Méliès has been honored. Perhaps his best most recent honor was Hugo, a full-motion picture in honor of his life and work. You can't go wrong with a movie starring a robot!