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The Revenge of a Kinematograph Cameraman More at IMDbPro »Mest kinematograficheskogo operatora (original title)

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23 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Delightful animation by a real pioneer

9/10
Author: wmorrow59 from Westchester County, NY
7 May 2002

For animation buffs it's a must, but you don't have to be a specialist to enjoy The Cameraman's Revenge, a very early example of 'pixilation' by the hard-working pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz. Starewicz and his helpers painstakingly manipulated a cast of flexible insect figures to tell this story, paving the way for the likes of Willis O'Brien, George Pal, Ray Harryhausen, and legions of modern digital effect creators.

The Cameraman's Revenge is only about 10 minutes long, but offers lots of amusing detail as the story follows the amorous adventures of two beetles from their home to a nightclub, a hotel, a cinema, and, eventually, a prison cell. There are two brief dance numbers at the nightclub performed by a frog and a dragonfly, a scuffle between a beetle and a grasshopper, and, for the finale, a large-scale donnybrook at the cinema, which ends with the projector bursting into flames. Pretty elaborate goings-on for 1912, when even John Bray and Winsor MacCay were just getting started, and Walt Disney was still in grade school!

This film, which is silent of course, also provides an interesting example of the impact title cards can have on the story being told. I've seen two versions of this film offered by two video companies, and watched them back-to-back, and although the image content itself is almost identical the title cards tell two very different stories. (And the plot outline someone provided on this film's IMDb page tells a third version of the tale, which suggests that there's another version out there somewhere.) The British Film Institute's print, which has rhyming title cards, tells the story of two sibling beetles, each secretly married, who hide this information from one another in order to inherit their late father's fortune. The Russian version tells a simpler story of a pair of beetles married to each other who are both guilty of infidelity. In the Russian version Mr. Beetle visits his girlfriend at the "Gay Dragonfly" nightclub, while in the English version brother Bill Beetle visits his wife at the music-hall. Personally, I prefer the straightforward-- and spicier --Russian story; the BFI version tries to cram too much plot into what should be a simple tale, and some of the rhymes are a bit awkward.

In any case The Cameraman's Revenge is a delightful and imagination film in whatever version you happen to find, and it would make an ideal lead-in to that other great animated work featuring beetles, Yellow Submarine.

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Marvelous

Author: Cineanalyst
2 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Making a film, even of only a few minutes, entirely by stop-motion animation with puppets replicating insects (which I think is how he did it) must be exceedingly assiduous; to have done so in 1912 is astounding. Wladyslaw Starewicz (later in France, Ladislas Starewitch) deserves plenty of praise for such innovation, but the marvelous aspect of "The Cameraman's Revenge" is that he aggrandizes upon that with a narrative of burlesque, which is both entertaining and clever.

The stop-motion animation is seamless compared to contemporaneous or even later efforts by others. The insect puppets, as well as the small-scale sets, display great care and detail. One becomes enveloped in the insects' world. Only a long shot, from a human's eye view above, of the grasshopper cameraman on his bicycle following Mr. Beetle and the dragonfly in a car puts the story in proper perspective--further highlighting the absurd hilarity of the happenings. The burlesque is, after all, on us. The insects play out a parody of human follies, caricaturing us in detail.

Furthermore, the burlesque is cleverly self-referential; the joke is also on film and filmmakers. Movies typically depict human dramas in deceptively realistic light. You could say Starewicz attempted the same thing, except he replaced human actors with insect replicas. This is clear by the grasshopper as a motion-picture cameraman, who documents the affair between Mr. Beetle and the dragonfly and later screens this film within a film at an open-air cinema attended by both Mr. and Mrs. Beetle. This frames the narrative and bounds the film's metaphysics. By 1912 no less, Starewicz is playing around with notions of what cinema is: is it a medium for documenting real events, an insight into human nature, or whatnot; he clearly believed it is fantasy.

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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Impressive Animation, & Very Enjoyable to Watch

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
17 August 2004

The impressive animation alone would make this more than worthwhile, and the amusing story alone would make entertaining viewing for any fan of silent comedies. The two together make "The Cameraman's Revenge" a delightful classic that looks much better than practically anything made by the computerized studios of the present time.

The story itself is similar to many other short features of its era - 'Fatty' Arbuckle and other comics of the era made numerous entertaining movies with similar ideas. But having Mr. and Mrs. Beetle, instead of live actors, getting involved in the slapstick escapades with their various insect paramours and rivals makes it funnier and zanier. It works wonderfully well, because the animation is so detailed and painstaking. You can watch it several times and still appreciate the little details. Not only that, the puppet insects are made to act in very 'human' ways, while retaining the accurate form of real insects. It's an amazing and enjoyable combination.

Given how increasingly popular that animation has become, it seems surprising that this and Starewicz's other gems are not much better known and appreciated. This is one of his very best, and is well worth taking the time to see.

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Animation in 1912 well beyond its years

9/10
Author: Scott (scott.m.hathaway@gmail.com) from Greensboro, N.C.
20 October 2005

Ladislas Starewicz's curiosity with insects and cinema melds into a short film about a love triangle between Mr. Beetle, an artistic grasshopper, and Mrs. Beetle. The rather simple story of an adulterous beetle couple that both seek stimulation outside their marriage is similar to a Biograph or Vitagraph short of the time. Starewicz's twist on the story is to use embalmed beetles with wires straightening the legs in frame-by-frame animation. The story builds as Mr. Beetle is unknowingly caught on camera with a dragonfly from the local nightclub by a jealous grasshopper. When Mr. Beetle comes home to find his wife in the arms of her artistic friend, he chases her around angrily, but eventually forgives her and takes her out to see a movie. However, Mrs. Beetle soon learns of her husband's infidelities as the movie they watch is the jealous grasshopper's footage of Mr. Beetle and the dragonfly together. Mrs. Beetle thrashes Mr. Beetle with her umbrella, Mr. Beetle jumps through the screen, and they both end up in jail after the projector they wreck catches on fire. The insects are placed in humanized settings such as a house or a nightclub, and are given human characteristics of jealousy, anger, lust, and revenge. The insect characters carry briefcases, drive motorcars, and even wear shoes yet they also twitch their antennae and open and close their mandibles as real insects would. The novelty of the story doesn't wear itself out, even after multiple viewings, but as fluid as the movements are, the film moves slowly. Action happens with intricate detail, but rapidity and a quicker pace of filming is lost in the process. Despite its pace, the film is an excellent example of Starewicz's early puppetry and is highly recommended.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

At home with The Beetles

8/10
Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
2 April 2012

Decades before David Lynch or Gary Larson were even born, Wladyslaw Starewicz was creating surreal animated films featuring insects living in houses, driving cars and committing adulterous affairs. Yes, this short feature is way ahead of its time and remains to this day quite extraordinary. The very idea of depicting a domestic love triangle with insect characters is bizarre to say the least. The fact that the subject matter is clearly one aimed at adults not children shows that at this very early stage in the development of animation it wasn't necessarily obvious that this new form was perfect for children's features. No, this is more like a surrealist film, except of course, surrealism hadn't actually been invented yet! Yes, it has to be said that The Cameraman's Revenge is a highly original bit of work, and one that without question should be far better known.

The story is about a jealous grasshopper cameraman who films an illicit affair between Mr. Beetle and an exotic dragonfly dancer from the 'Gay Dragonfly' nightclub. Mr. Beetle's wife, Mrs. Beetle is simultaneously conducting a secret friendship with a floppy hat wearing artist insect. Mr. Beetle catches them in in a compromising situation and angrily drives him away. The Beetles then make up and go to the cinema but lo and behold the projectionist is our grasshopper friend and he splices in footage of the adulterous Mr. Beetle in action. Mrs. Beetle goes crazy and batters him over the head with an umbrella. The fight escalates and ends up in the projection booth catching fire and the Beetles are imprisoned for their actions. In jail they start to make up with one and other.

I don't usually bother to write synopsis in my reviews, or if I do I make it very brief. But I have made an exception for this film, as recounting this madness is a bit of a strange pleasure actually. This really is a one off as far as I can tell, I am unaware of any other insect-based love triangle films about angry and immoral insects. The animation itself is excellent and is a clear precursor for the stop-motion work of the more famous Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen. But for sheer originality and general weirdness, Cameraman's Revenge is the one. I would recommend this to anyone with a wish to see something a bit different to the norm.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The Cameraman's Revenge is unusual because of bugs!

8/10
Author: tavm from Baton Rouge, LA
29 August 2006

The Cameraman's Revenge is an unusual short not because of the subject matter (adultery) or because it's animated (Winsor McCay had introduced Little Nemo on film by this time) but because it depicts bugs to tell the story! Ladislaw Starewicz had originally wanted to film actual bugs fighting but couldn't get them to do it on camera because of the hot lights they suffered through so he took dead ones and started using stop-motion techniques to manipulate movements to his satisfaction. This short does a good job of putting human characteristics on little creatures such as riding motorcycles, painting, filming, kissing, and dancing. Starewicz would also make Frogland (1922) and The Mascot (1933) but his first notable work would be this one. If you're interested in this and the other shorts mentioned, check your local library to borrow the DVD The Cameraman't Revenge and Other Fantastic Tales from Image Entertainment.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"Mr. Beetle should have guessed that the aggressive grasshopper was a movie cameraman."

8/10
Author: ackstasis from Australia
26 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An absurdly hilarious and strikingly human tale of the jealousies and infidelities surrounding a beetle marriage, Russian animation pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz's "Mest kinematograficheskogo operatora" ("The Cameraman's Revenge", or "The Revenge of a Kinematograph Cameraman") is a delight of early animation, brimming with highly-effective stop-motion puppetry and no shortage of imagination.

Mr. and Mrs. Beetle have a completely uneventful marriage, and both yearn for more excitement in their lives. Mr. Beetle's desires can only be satisfied by the beautiful exotic dancer at the "Gay Dragonfly" night club, whom he visits whenever he takes a "business trip" to the city. She is the only one who understands him. A fellow admirer of this dancer, an aggressive grasshopper, is jealous that Mr. Beetle has stolen his lady and, as fate would have it, he is also a movie cameraman. The devious grasshopper follows Mr. Beetle and his acquaintance to a hotel room, where he films their exploits through the keyhole.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Beetle has, likewise, acquired a friend to add excitement to her life. He is an artist, and he brings her a painting for a present, before they both settle down on the couch for some intimacy. At that moment, however, Mr. Beetle returns home and witnesses the entire spectacle. As Mr. Beetle bashes through the front door, the artist friend clambers up the chimney, but he doesn't escape without Mr. Beetle first venting his anger and frustration upon him.

There is a certain irony in the statement that follows: "Mr. Beetle is generous. He forgives his wife and takes her to a movie." He is generous enough to forgive her, and yet he had been equally unfaithful just minutes earlier. At this point in time, however, we still haven't forgotten the jealous movie cameraman who had been plotting his revenge, and it is no surprise when he turns out to be the projectionist for the film Mr. and Mrs. Beetle are attending. Suddenly intercut into the film they are enjoying is the footage of Mr. Beetle's disloyalty, and the angry wife hits him across the head with an umbrella, before the frightened and angry husband dives through the theatre screen in search of the grasshopper.

In the final scene, both Mr. and Mrs. Beetle, now somewhat more appreciative of each other, are serving time in prison for the fire that broke out when Mr. Beetle sought his final revenge. We do, indeed, hope that "the home life of the Beetles will be less exciting in the future…" This film may appear to be a mere story of the comings-and-goings of a miniscule insect species, but Starewicz is communicating so much more than that. This isn't a story about beetles – it is a story about us. And it's startlingly accurate, isn't it?!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A quirky animated comedy of high historical importance.

8/10
Author: I B from Mars
19 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Cameraman's Revenge is a highlight in the career of the great Russian animator Ladislas Starevich (born in Moscow in 1882). The short film is a melodramatic masterpiece of love, deception and betrayal. It's considerably improved by its cinematic reflexivity, willingly acknowledging the voyeuristic and intrusive practices of film itself. Starevich was influenced by The Animated Matches (1908) by the pioneering French animator Emile Cohl. He began working at the Khanzonkow Film Production Company in 1911. His original use of live insects led to their deaths under the hot studio lights, so he had to animate models instead. The use of insects gives the material a Kafkaesque tone, exercising on the 'otherness' of insect forms to evoke the possibility of human perversity and desire. The realism of the animation led The Times to report that the insects were alive and trained by Russian scientists. Starevich's approach was pioneering because it began a tradition in stop-motion animation which in the Hollywood context became absorbed into special-effects work. Starevich's influence can be traced to films such as King Kong (1933), Jason And The Argonauts (1963), Star Wars (1977), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1992) and James And The Giant Peach (1995). Some of these even included direct tributes to Starevich's films. I highly recommend seeing The Cameraman's Revenge. It's an animation classic.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Secret Life of Insects

10/10
Author: Eumenides_0 from Portugal
5 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the best animated movies I've ever seen in my life. This isn't just a fun movie, or a well-made movie. This is a landmark in the art of animation and even if it weren't, just the technical skill that went into making it, would grant it a place in the history of animation.

Wladyslaw Starewicz created a stop-motion movie about the secret life of beetles. He imagined a coherent world of insects, with jobs, houses, nightclubs, movie houses, even little props like posters and bicycles and paintings.

In this movie he tells a simple tale of hypocrisy and revenge. Mr. Beetle has an affair with a dancing dragonfly, much to the chagrin of a grasshopper; but he's a cameraman and decides to shoot the fling. Mr. Beetle returns home and finds Mrs. Beetle having her own affair. Mr. Beetle chases the lover away but forgives his wife. The two make up and go out to the movies. And the movie they watch is Mr. Beetle and the Dragonfly. Described thus it sounds banal, but once seen it becomes a gripping work of cinema. Along with Emile Cohl and Jiri Trnka, Wladyslaw Starewicz pretty much invented everything that future animators would use in their work. For that reason he must not remain forgotten.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Pretty weird...but also pretty amazing

9/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
1 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Believe it or not, at 12 minutes, this film (for 1912) is a full-length film. Very, very few films were longer than that back then, but that is definitely NOT what sets this odd little film apart from the rest! No, what's different is that all the actors (with the exception of one frog) are bugs...yes, bugs! This simple little domestic comedy could have looked much like productions starring the likes of Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy or Max Linder but instead this Russian production uses bugs (or, I think, models that looked just like bugs). Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy were yet to be discovered and I assume Linder was busy, so perhaps that's why they used bugs! Using stop-motion, the bugs moved and danced and fought amazingly well--and a heck of a lot more realistically than King Kong 21 years later!

The film starts with Mr. Beetle sneaking off for a good time. He goes to a bawdy club while his wife supposedly waits at home. But, unfortunately for Mr. Beetle, he is caught on camera by a local film buff. Plus, he doesn't know it but Mrs. Beetle is also carrying on with a bohemian grasshopper painter. Of course, there's a lot more to this domestic comedy than this, but the plot is age-old and very entertaining for adults and kids alike.

Weird but also very amazing and watchable.

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