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The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901)

An old proprietor is startled by the sudden appearance of a skull. Just as he draws back from the uncanny object, the doors of a mediaeval wardrobe fly back and a hand prods him with a ... See full summary »

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An old proprietor is startled by the sudden appearance of a skull. Just as he draws back from the uncanny object, the doors of a mediaeval wardrobe fly back and a hand prods him with a sword. He turns to confront his assailant when it vanishes, and at the same instant the skull flies to the other end of the room. He clutches at the skull, when it turns into the half form of a girl from the waist up, suspended in mid-air. As he gazes in amusement, the other half of the girl, fully dressed from her waist down, walks across the room, and the two halves of the figure join, making a girl complete. In an amorous fashion the old man folds his arms around the girl's waist with the intention of stealing a kiss, but the girl immediately changes into an old woman, who grins in evident delight at the old man's discomfort. In great anger he throws her into the wardrobe and locks the door. Unseen by him, the woman has again become a girl. A great effect is here produced. Through the doors, which ... Written by Edison Catalog

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May 1902 (USA)  »

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Clearly a ripoff of the work of Georges Méliès
4 January 2012 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

In the very early days of film, outright stealing of ideas was rampant. Often, when a good idea developed, other filmmakers would copy it EXACTLY or as exactly as possible and market the product as their own. It clearly was theft and nowadays you'd get sued for such blatant ripoffs. But in the 1895-1910 era, the problem abounded. For example, I've seen an alternate version of the groundbreaking "Voyage Dan Le Lune" (Georges Méliès) that was so close to the original that I thought perhaps Méliès had decided to rework or remake his own film.

In the case of "The Old Curiosity Shop", Walter Booth decided to make a film that wasn't exactly a copy of Méliès' work--but was very strongly inspired by it. It features a scene that is very, very similar--with a man making things appear and disappear through the use of double-exposures and stop-motion. But, unlike a Méliès film, the tricks come VERY rapid-fire--so quickly that the film lacks grace--though the tricks, by 1901 standards, are quite nice.

One other note. The plot of this knockoff film is not exactly as it is described in the IMDb summary. Perhaps there are various versions of this film varying in lengths. The one I downloaded from archive.org (which are often linked to IMDb--but this film is not) had cute gnomes and no hint of the old lady wanting a kiss from the conjurer.


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