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'The X-Ray Fiend' is a very short film produced and directed by the Victorian showman George Albert Smith. This is a 'trick' film: one of many such films made before 1910, inspired by the movies of Georges Melies, in which the very thin plot of the film is merely a vehicle for trick photography. 'The X-Ray Fiend' is more interesting than most other films of this genre, because it deals with a recent scientific discovery. Wilhelm Roengten had discovered x-rays in November 1895 (about sixteen months before this movie was made): 'The X-Ray Fiend' deals satirically with Roentgen's discovery at a time when it was still new and miraculous.
In this short film, a young couple are embracing: this by itself was a fairly strong image for the sedate filmgoers of 1897. They are so rapt in each other's attentions that they fail to notice a bizarre-looking professor who arrives, toting a weird apparatus which he aims at them. This turns out to be an x-ray projector. When the professor switches it on, the outer bodies of the man and woman turn invisible, and now we see their skeletons. The two skeletons are still embracing, blissfully unaware of their transformation.
It would have been more interesting if the x-ray projector had worked more gradually, so that we first see the couple's clothing fading away to reveal their naked bodies underneath ... followed by the fading of their flesh to reveal their musculature, and only then skeletonising them. No such luck.
This is a crude film, with trickery that is very obvious from our modern standpoint, but it has some historical value, and it's so bizarre that it still retains some humour. I'll rate this movie 4 points out of 10.
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