Friday, 1 August 2014
The Haunted Castle (1896/7)
Early this may be, dating from before the publication of Dracula, but this is generally defined as the first ever horror film by those sensible people who don't consider the sight of a moving train moving towards the audience to be such. It's public domain, obviously, even if your country, like mine, has particularly stupid copyright extension laws, and available on YouTube. Other such sites are available.
The most obviously noticeable things to a modern viewer are the poor condition of the film (surely restoration could improve it?) and the worryingly unsubtle acting. But perhaps "acting" is the wrong word; I may be reading too much into the fact that the film looks like a filmed stage play as, this being 1896, the camera doesn't move, but this looks like a stage magician's act, except all the tricks are done by means of Georges Melies' early experimental use of the camera for special effects. It comes across as light entertainment rather than drama, and is focused on showing off what the new medium can do rather than things such as plot or narrative.
Still, this film is a testament to how much we owe to these early pioneers of cinema. It's shocking to reflect that this. film was considered lost until it's rediscovery in 1988. Many other silents are still lost today.