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The Untamable Whiskers (1904)

Le roi du maquillage (original title)
The background of this picture represents a scene along the beautiful river Seine in Paris. A gentleman enters, and taking a blackboard from the side of the picture, he draws on it a sketch... See full summary »

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The background of this picture represents a scene along the beautiful river Seine in Paris. A gentleman enters, and taking a blackboard from the side of the picture, he draws on it a sketch of a novelist. Then, standing in the centre, he causes the living features of his sketch to appear in the place of his own, which is utterly devoid of whiskers. The change is made so mysteriously that the eye cannot notice it until one sees quite another person in the place of the first. Again another sketch is shown on the board, this one being that of a miser; then an English cockney; a comic character; a French policeman, and last of all, the grinning visage of Mephistopheles. It is almost impossible to give this film a more definite description; suffice it to say that it is something entirely new in motion pictures and is sure to please. Written by Méliès Catalog

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Short | Fantasy

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5 March 1904 (USA)  »

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The Untamable Whiskers  »

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A magician's act
11 April 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

They didn't call Georges Méliès "the Magician" for nothing – though I am more partial to the great filmmaker's plot-driven masterpieces, he was also hugely popular for fascinating, special effects-driven snippets like this. Basically the cinematic equivalent of a magician's stage act, 'The Untamable Whiskers' gives Méliès an opportunity to show off the cross-fade effect, which allows him to fade discreetly between similar images.

A "man with whiskers" (played by the director himself) waltzes up to a blackboard and quickly sketches the image of a man with long hair. Shifting the board to the side, the man presents himself to the camera, stands still for a few moments and – voila! – he magically grows long hair. Méliès does this several times, experimenting with different hair styles, beard lengths and costumes. Best of all, he appears to be having a fun time doing it! Though the act (and the primitive special effect) is hardly interesting to modern audiences, the film has an odd charm about it, possibly aided by the director's apparently unyielding enthusiasm. Like any good stage magician, Méliès knows he's being clever, and I'm sure audiences back in 1904 were conversing amongst themselves about how on Earth he managed to pull it off!


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