IN 1941 the workers of the writers' program of the WPA in New York City, together with the Museum of Modern Art film library and the H. W. Wilson company (publishers of the numerous periodical indexes such as the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature), issued The Film Index. In this 723-page book there is one section of particular interest to fantasy fans -- the section on Fantasy and Trick films. According to the introductory note, this is a listing of various "films of the imaginary world of fancy, legend, prophecy and the macabre, and magic of trick films." Among such familiar movies as "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," "Metropolis," "Things to Come," "The Man Who Could Work Miracles," "The Phantom of the Opera," and "King Kong," there are a number of films I have never seen mentioned in the fan press.
Below I have listed some of these films. I have omitted most of the merely "trick" films whose whole point depends on camera trickery, and have included mostly those which are to some degree true fantasy. Many of these, too, also depend on trick photography. Indeed, most of the fantasies from the era of 1908-14 were probably filmed in the first place mostly to show off some new trick the producer had thought up. Film makers were intrigued by trick effects in those days, and what better way to make use of them than in fantasy?
The Airship (1908, Vitagraph, U. S.). A depiction of future air travel, in which an air-cycle and prankish flyers are shown, as well as the antics of a Hebrew who in his individual flying-equipment takes flight, crashes in the sea, is swallowed by a whale, and is finally rescued by sailors.
Ashes (1913, Reliance, U. S.). This is a two-reeler about an old gentleman who, sensing his impending death, has a banquet table set with five bouquets, each symbolic of a past love affair. Each bouquet conjures up a vision of the girl it represents.
A Blind Bargain (1922, Goldwin, U. S.). This film portrays the gruesome activities of a mad scientist who schemes to extend human life by injecting longevity serum derived from anthropoid apes. From the novel The Octave of Claudius by Barry Paine, the film starred Lon Chaney.
The Brass Bottle (1923, First National, U. S.). Taken from the Arabian Nights story, this picture shows how the genie performs numerous feats of magic when released from his imprisoning bottle.
The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906, Edison, U. S.). This brief film tells of a man who, after dining too well, dreams of a wild midnight journey through space. Adapted from Windsor McCay's cartoon, "The Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend," and directed by Edwin S. Porter, this film was made at a cost of $350 in only nine days.
Fantastic Heads (1909, Pathe, France). In the form of a ballet, this picture depicts a decapitated man wandering through fantastic patterns of assorted heads, attempting to select a suitable one for himself.
The Ghost of Granleigh (1913, Edison, U. S.), The ghost of the deceased owner of a country estate effects a reconciliation between a male heir and the latter's wife, after the latter has decided to run off with another man.
Hercules and the Big Stick (1910, Gaumont, France). Hercules defeats the Nemean lion and the hydra-headed monster, captures the wild boar of Erymanthus, and abducts Queen Hippolyte.
How They Work in Cinema (1911, Eclair, France). A film director defeats a strike at the studio by using superscientific electrical devices and an all-robot cast to finish his picture.
If One Could Look Into the Future (1911, Ambrosio, Italy). This film tells how a mother whose son has died is consoled by a visit from Death, who reveals to her the sordid experiences her son would have met with if he had lived.
Isis (1910, Pathe, France). A retelling of the Egyptian legend, in which a prince rejects the girl chosen for him by the moon goddess, Isis, who punishes him by appearing before him in human form and tormenting and frustrating him through the power of love.
The Lacemaker's Dream (1910, Lux, France). The dream of a girl that supernatural forces make rare laces for her and her grandmother to sell is magically fulfilled.
The Latest Style Airship (1908, Pathe, France). A messenger's bicycle suddenly takes wing and transports him high over the city. Directed by Ferdinand Zecca.
Legend of Orpheus (1909, Pathe, France). A color film retelling the myth of Orpheus' descent into Hades to rescue the lost Eurydice.
The Legend of Scar-face (1910, Kalem, U. S.). An Indian who has been scarred by an encounter with a giant bear is cured of his deformities by bathing in magic waters.
Looking Forward (1910, Thanhouser, U. S.). A scientist drinks a rare potion, sleeps one hundred years, and wakens to find that the world has become a matriarchy. However, the lady mayor whose hand he eventually wins promises obedience, as well as love and honor.
Love and Marriage in Poster Land (1910, Edison, U. S.). Two figures from a billboard step into the animate world and achieve marital happiness through the magic power of love -- and trick photography.
Lured by a Phantom (1910, Gaumont, France). The king of Thule embarks on a mystical pilgrimage after renouncing his throne and worldly goods.
The Magic Mirror (1908, Pathe, France). A scientist applies a miraculous fluid to a mirror, whereupon his image emerges from the glass to mimic all his actions. Another film directed by Zecca.
A Mirror of the Future (1910, Pathe, France). The magic mirror sold by a street vendor reveals to a pair of young lovers their future amusing experiences.
The Mystical Maid of Jamasha Pass (1912, American, U. S.). Two young men sleeping in the pass waken to behold a beautiful apparition before them. They quarrel over the phantom girl and one is killed. The other is lured over the cliffs by the apparition.
One Glorious Day (1922, Paramount, U. S.) In the limbo where souls wait to be born and enter the world, one impish soul decamps prematurely, entering the body of a timid professor and changing him for the better for a brief time. Directed by James Cruze, this film featured Will Rogers, Lila Lee, and Alan Hale.
The Prehistoric Man (1908, Urban-Eclipse, France). An artist draws a prehistoric man, who comes to life and pursues him until the artist conceives the idea of drawing a prehistoric monster which also comes to life and devours the club-wielding savage.
Siegfried (1923, Decla-Bioskop-UFA, Germany). A Fritz Lang film, this German triumph was based on original sources of the Nibelungen saga, adapted by Thea von Harbou, and utilizing Wagner's music. This film was hailed as "the first ... to challenge the supremacy of the older arts" by the Manchester Guardian, 30 April 1924.
The Story of the Blood Red Rose (1914, Selig, U. S.). A beautiful maiden uses magic to protect herself from an evil king and, eventually losing her battle, is united in death with her true lover, a humble huntsman.
A Strike in the Make-Young Business (1911, Eclair, France). Undergoing mechanical treatment to have his youth restored, a man is the victim of a strike which reverses the machinery.
A Trip to Jupiter (1909, Pathe, France). In a dream, a king journeys through space to Jupiter, and wonderingly contemplates the universe.
A Trip to Mars (1910, Edison, U. S.). A professor travels fantastically to Mars where he battles with half-human tree-monsters and a giant Martian. The latter's breath freezes him into a snowball, which explodes and hurls him back to Earth.
The Vampire (1913, Kalem, U. S.). A vampire in the guise of a wood nymph lures a young artist to his death.
The Vision (1926, Educational, U. S.). A Technicolor film about a young and beautiful lady ghost, doomed to haunt an old castle, and a romantic young invalid who follows her into the shadows, believing she is his dead lover.
When Soul Meets Soul (1912, Essanay, U. S.). An Egyptian princess, spurned by her lover, stabs herself to death before a statue of Osiris, vowing revenge in a future life. When she is brought as a mummy into the study of her reincarnated lover, now a modern-day professor, she fulfills her vow. The film starred Francis X. Bushman.
Willie's Magic Wand (1908, Urban, Great Britain). A sorcerer punishes his young son for stealing a magic wand by turning him into a girl.
Page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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