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This colorful, macabre feature is also something of an interesting
change of pace from Georges Méliès. His impish wit is at its most
morbid here, and while the special camera effects are used less
lavishly than usual, this also enhances their impact. The hand-tinted
color is still vivid enough to add to the overall effect, with the
greenish demons and the brightly flickering flames helping to set a
The brief story follows two demons as they toss three helpless captives into "The Infernal Boiling Pot", and then stir up the pot to see what comes out. The 'spirit' effect works particularly well, and the ghostly shapes show how versatile Méliès could be in varying his techniques as required. To be sure, the techniques used in much more recent movies have gotten us used to seeing effects like this, but for 1903 it is quite impressive, and it holds up very well.
It would be interesting to know how the original viewers of this feature responded to it, since its ghoulish tone and vivid images contrasted with almost any other movie of its day. In any case, it is still an interesting feature that is definitely worth seeing.
Every fantasy/horror fan should check out this 1-minute short from pioneering French director Georges Méliès. Made the year after what many consider Méliès' masterpiece LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (A TRIP TO THE MOON) and not nearly as elaborate or impressive as that work, this is still a great piece of film history no film fan will have a problem spending 60 seconds of their time viewing. Unlike most other shorts from the filmmaker, this one was also hand-tinted a variety of bold colors, which gives it a different look and feel than others from the same era. It starts with two green, pitchfork-holding demons in horned headdresses luring a woman into their castle, wrapping her in a sheet and then throwing her into a cauldron, which then erupts in flames. They then throw two others in. The second demon stirs the pot and then the lead demon (played by the director himself) summons each of the three individual spirits. Smoke and fire erupt from the cauldron as each spirit emerges and then floats around overhead. The painted castle backdrop is a simple but effective Gothic design, with just a few thrones and a couple of red demon masks on the walls, and the special effects are very good and have held up surprisingly well over time. Other than a few choppy jumps toward the end of this short as the spirits catch fire and turn to ash, it's a very cool and interesting short.
While an enormously influential pioneer on the field of special
effects, French director Georges Méliès was oddly not that interested
in making color films in his career. The reasons behind this apparent
lack of interest were probably related to how costly and laborious was
the process of hand-coloring frame by frame, as while his first
hand-colored movie was done in 1897 ("L'Hallucination De
l'Alchimiste"), he wouldn't attempt to make another one until 1903,
when the hand-colored movies done by Edison's Studios became to be as
popular as his films. That year, right after the enormous success of
his masterpiece, "Le Voyage Dans la Lune" ("A Trip to the Moon"),
Méliès directed 3 shorts that he colored himself: "La Guirlande
Merveilleuse", "Le Cake-walk infernal" and "Le Chaudron infernal". Of
the three, "Le Chaudron infernal" (or "The Infernal Cauldron") is the
most well-known, mainly because this film followed Méliès' interest in
the horror genre.
"Le Chaudron infernal" (also known as "The Infernal Boiling Pot" by some sources) is a movie about an evil green-skinned Demon (Georges Méliès, of course), who works as an executioner in Hell. Another demon in charge of bringing him the condemned, begins his work by sending a woman to the Executioner, who joyfully ties her and throws her into the big cauldron he has in his room. His assistant brings him another two condemned, this time two male courtiers, who follow the woman to her fate inside the boiling pot. As the bodies enter the cauldron the infernal flames grow bigger and reach an enormous size. After putting the three inside the cauldron, the Demon stirs up the remains and suddenly the smoke that comes from the cauldron begins to form images that resemble the bodies of the condemned. Realizing that this are the souls trying to escape, the Demon will raise the fire from Hell to stop them from escaping.
Among Méliès' many fantasy films, "Le Chaudron infernal" is definitely one of the most impressive of all despite its short runtime, as the addition of color takes the film to a whole new level, making Méliès' many tricks look even more amazing than before. To his usual array of dissolves and camera tricks, Méliès added the effects of drawing over the celluloid (an effect made famous years later by the "Godzilla" films of the 60s), using the hand-coloring technique not only to make the film look nicer, but to make an effect in itself. On a completely different subject, it's interesting to see that in this movie Méliès continues his preference for themes of horror and black magic, as he knows that it's in the horror genre where he'll be able to exploit his special effects to shock and impress his audience.
Being objective, the only problem of "Le Chaudron infernal" is definitely its runtime, as considering that by 1903 Georges Méliès had already done "Le Voyage Dans la Lune", one would think that this film is a bit too short. However, there is a reason for this considerably shorter runtime: it's short because the process of coloring the film was lengthy, and Méliès wasn't able to make longer colored films (and as written above, that's why he only made 7 colored shorts in his career). Despite this problems, "Le Chaudron infernal" is definitely one of the most interesting movies done by the legendary French magician, not only because of its inventive use of color as a special effect, but also because of its place in the history of the horror genre. This movie is definitely pure Cinemagic. 8/10
Infernal Boiling Pot, The (1903)
*** (out of 4)
aka Chaudron infernal, Le
One of the director's most popular films features two demons kidnapping people and throwing them into a boiling pot of water so that the demons can steal their souls. This hand colored film is a real joy and contains all the magic and playfulness that has made the director a legend. It's easy to see why this would be one of the director's most popular films because the special effects are terrific even after all these years. When the spirits begin to fly through the air, these scenes look great as does the finale when the spirits go up in flames. The film runs just over a minute but contains plenty of nice laughs and it's a real treat for the eyes. The coloring done here is also very good and manages to add a lot to the film especially those red flames that are constantly coming up.
This thirty-second short from 1903 shows demons burning women alive in. Melies had it hand-tinted and the colors are quite startling and alive. When I compare it to modern scenes of horror -- the hordes of undead in THE MUMMY returns, for example -- it comes off very well. Take a look. Your great-grandparents may not have known anything about Gangsta Rap, but they got to see an occasional good flick.
1903 was a terrific year for Méliès, as he created his greatest and
most amazing film, Le Voyage Dans le Lune. It is STILL an amazing and
cute little film that was longer and more complex than any previous
film. Its use of trick cinematography, great sets and innovations make
it a truly landmark film. And, while Le Chaudron Infernal is STILL an
amazing film, it pales in comparison to some of these other films.
Interestingly enough, the film is in color--featuring each individual cel having been hand-painted! This, plus the cool camera tricks make this a standout film. Now as far as plots go, it's pretty weird stuff. Two demons are chucking damned souls into a cauldron and ultimately summon their spirits using incantations! There's really no more plot than that--and that's why it is a tad disappointing.
If you want to see this film online, go to Google and type in "Méliès" and then click the video button for a long list of his films that are viewable without special software.
Georges Méliès directed this short macabre film about two demons throwing people into a boiling pot of water. Not only does the film contain all the visual trickery that is associated with the director but it also has the added bonus of being hand coloured. This adds a nice extra dimension to the look. The green demons and the red flames are particularly memorable. The best effect in the film is the image of the spirits rising into the air from the bubbling cauldron. They are nice spooky and ghostly apparitions. The film is too short to really work as a horror picture. The horror film needed more time to work on the viewers emotions than these ancient short films allowed. Still it's most definitely one of the earliest macabre films in existence, and is well worth seeing, as it will possibly take you more time to read this review than it would be to actually watch this fascinating old movie.
This film, "The Infernal Caldron" is a single-scene trick film by
Georges Méliès, who made many such subjects, which creatively exploited
cinematic techniques, mostly substitution splices and multiple-exposure
photography. This film is the earliest one that I recall where the
filmmaker used multiple exposures to create such indistinguishable
ghostly images. I know that he had made ghosts or spirits with the
technique before, such as in "A Fantastical Meal" (1900), as had other
early filmmakers, but those ghosts that I've seen are distinguished as
human lookingonly fainter or more transparent in appearance than the
living. The trick for the blurry ghost blobs in "The Infernal Caldron"
was to alter the lens to go out of focus for their exposure. Méliès
repeated the trick for his next film, "Apparitions" (Le
Additionally, this particular trick film remains appealing today because it's available in a vibrant hand-colored print. The color especially aids in making the fire red, as well as bringing attention to the décor and costumes. In the film, the director plays a demon who places people in a cauldron. The out-of-focus spirits fly out of the cauldron and then transform into fireballs. There are quite a few macabre little pictures among Méliès's surviving films, but this is one of my favorites.
P.S. Many, if not most, of Méliès's films were offered to be hand-painted for exhibitors (for an additional fee). Most films from this era are lost, and many of the films that do survive and that were in color have lost their paint over time or only remain in prints that weren't colorized. An all-female staff headed by a Madame Thullier, reportedly, provided the color for all such Star Films, from 1896 or 1897 to 1910, as well as for other French studios. The coloring was done manually in an assembly-line procedure, film-by-film, frame-by-frame, with each laborer specializing in a certain color. Otherwise, some fairground exhibitors may have colored their own prints to cut costs. Later, Pathé's stencil process made coloring easier and more consistent (main source: Frazer, "Artificially Arranged Scenes").
Melies' typically lively imagination is once again evident here as he treats us to a macabre little scene in which a couple of demons capture unfortunate souls and bundle them into the eponymous cauldron only to then summon their spirits. The film is hand-coloured and is still in remarkably good condition, and Melies' trademark special effects are up to his usual standard - in fact they can stand comparison with the special effects in movies made 70 years later. There's not much plot, but then plot was never the most important thing to Melies - he was more concerned with visualising his incredible imagination on the screen. This one is a real treat.
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