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The Red Spectre (1907)

Le spectre rouge (original title)
A demonic magician attempts to perform his act in a strange grotto, but is confronted by a Good Spirit who opposes him.
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Storyline

In a strange grotto deep in the bowels of the earth a coffin uprights itself, dances, then opens, and out steps a demonic magician with skeletal face, horns, and cape. He wraps two women (who appear to be in a trance) in fabric, levitates them, and causes them to burst into flames and disappear. As he gathers their ashes in a pitcher a Good Spirit [a young woman who resembles Peter Pan] appears, shakes her head No, and reveals the "souls" of the two women in a secret compartment deeper within the cave. The Good Spirit vanishes in a puff of smoke. The magician then produces 3 glass bottles on pillars, takes them downstage close to the camera, and reveals 3 tiny women in them; one woman beats a tambourine while the other two sway. The magician pours ashes (?) into the bottles, but the Good Spirit reappears and makes these trapped figures disappear in a flash, angering the magician, who chases her away. He makes an easel appear. There is an odd sort of screen on it bearing the Pathe ... Written by wmorrow59

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Short | Fantasy

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Release Date:

17 August 1907 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Red Spectre  »

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(hand-tinted)|

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Has a link to the Ulli Lommel's Zodiac Killer (2005) case. A letter allegedly sent by the Zodiac Killer, who may have been a film buff, was signed "The Red Phantom" and could have referred to this film or to the color "Masque of the Red Death" sequence in Lon Chaney's 1925 The Phantom of the Opera (1925). See more »

Connections

Edited into Scream Greats, Vol. 2: Satanism and Witchcraft (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bizarre and fascinating
10 August 2002 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

The first decade of the twentieth century saw the production of dozens of brief "trick films" which pushed the boundaries of the new medium, and France was the capital of this activity. Georges Méliès is the best known creator of these films, but The Red Spectre, which was produced at the Pathé Studio as a collaboration between Méliès' fellow pioneers Ferdinand Zecca and Segundo De Chomon, is perhaps the most bizarre and fascinating of them all. Or at least, allowing for the fact that so many of these films are lost, it certainly ranks with the best of the survivors. It is better seen than described, genuinely dreamlike in its images and transitions, and quite strange, but quite satisfying as well. The action lasts only about 8 or 9 minutes, but when it's over you feel as if you've been permitted to visit another world. When The Red Spectre was first exhibited the black & white footage was hand-colored to produce a dazzling effect, and happily, this material survives: a color print was discovered in a junk-yard in Mexico, and purchased for $25.00!

Our setting is a mysterious underground grotto, and our "host" is a demonic magician who seems to be toying with the souls or spirits of several captive women. He causes them to levitate, then burst into flames; he captures their ashes in bottles, brings them back to life in miniaturized form, etc. The magician is opposed throughout by a Good Fairy who resembles Peter Pan (portrayed by a woman, as Peter traditionally is on stage). The precise meaning of the action is difficult to determine at times, but the central conflict amounts to a struggle between the forces of Good and Evil.

One effect is especially notable: when the wicked magician produces three glass bottles, each holding a tiny woman prisoner, and brings them downstage to allow for a close-up, the scene instantly reminds latter day viewers of a similar sequence in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Did James Whale see this film, or is the similarity a coincidence? Notable, too, is the depiction of a device very much like television-- strongly suggested by the evil conjurer's magic screens, each of which depicts a series of moving images. Here's a real cinematic milestone: a film that predicts the coming of T.V., and, on top of that, attributes its invention to a demon!


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