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The Mysterious Retort More at IMDbPro »Alchimiste Parafaragaramus ou La cornue infernale (original title)

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: boblipton from New York City
12 November 2002

Even when we look at one of Melies' films and don't know what he is going on about, still, we are carried along by his speed, his good humor and his inventiveness -- after all, his films at this stage rarely last more than a minute.

Here, we have a piece that might be called "The Alchemist's Dream." The old alchemist falls asleep and dreams of finding the philosopher's stone: he dreams of snakes shedding their skins, of young women tossing gold, all the hermetical symbols of the Philosopher's Stone which not only granted the ability to transmute any item into gold, but gave one eternal youth.

So this is a sad movie, in a way: an old man dreams of being young. Yet Melies hides behind these symbols, which we don't know about nowadays, and produces a fun little piece.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Méliès At His Weirdest

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
3 December 2002

This short movie shows the visual effects wizard Georges Méliès at his weirdest, in a feature with a steady succession of bizarre and unexpected visual effects. He had quite an imagination, not only for devising camera tricks, but also for the images themselves.

There isn't really very much of a story to this movie, just a sleepy alchemist whose laboratory takes on a life of its own. Most of the visual effects are seamless or nearly so, and even those that aren't seamless are more than interesting enough to make up for it.

Some of the images are dazzling, some a little startling - it's a weird and very interesting collection of pictures and ideas that you have to see for yourself. You probably couldn't really call it one of the best Méliès features, but it's interesting and distinctive.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

an early wizard movie

Author: karl van rooy from netherlands
30 June 2002

very nice fantasy movie with good special effects for its time, the spider in the glass vial is very funny and well done,also when the vial spit fireworks into a tun a ghost appears is a great moment in this short fantasy with some horror influence.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

All special effects, not much story from Méliès

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
2 September 2006

I love the films of Méliès, as for their day, they were the most clever, creative and had the best trick cinematography of the day. His movies such as Le Voyage Dans le Lune are classics and I try to see every one I can--they are just so amazing and watchable even today (unlike the films of Edison and Lumiere which seem pretty pointless today).

Unfortunately, while this IS a wonderful film, it is NOT among Méliès' best--in fact, oddly, it is almost plot less and is just an excuse to create special effect after special effect. The effects (apart from the cheesy snake) are great and the film is well worth seeing, but it has little lasting value unlike most of his other films I have seen.

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.

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Dazzles the Eye but Not the Mind

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
17 November 2017

There are numerous visual delights here as an alchemist works with others to invent. What actually happens is the magic that has been done before resurfaces. Still, I really enjoy the faces that are presented to us. The magician never leaves character and continues to work, even though there are complicated issues. Nice little venture.

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Fsmiliar but still effective.

Author: JoeytheBrit from
24 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although this Georges Melies special effects extravaganza shows that after ten years the French wizard had lost none of his energy and enthusiasm, there's something a little 'same-y' about this three minute short in which an Alchemist has weird dreams in his laboratory which ultimately result in his death.

While Melies' visual imagination was insuperable he often seemed to have difficulty creating scenarios in which his special effects could be put to good use outside of the tired 'dream' idea. Given his prodigious output, and the confines of the medium back in 1906, this isn't entirely surprising.

The special effects in this one are up to Melies' usual high standards (apart from that pantomime snake), with the spiders web in the retort being particularly striking.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Mysterious Retort

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
20 March 2010

Mysterious Retort, The (1906)

*** (out of 4)

aka L'alchimiste Parafaragaramus ou la cornue infernale

A wizard falls asleep in his lab when a serpent comes out from a cabinet and soon takes shape in a variety of forms including a spider, a joker and a mysterious woman. This here is another one of Melies most popular films and it's easy to see why as we're given all sorts of nice humor, some weird situations and just an overall surreal atmosphere that really makes this stick out among his hundreds of pictures. I'm not sure what it is but I always love when that serpent shows up as I find it to be one of the most interesting figures from this early part of film. It's certainly nothing ground breaking and the effect of it is obvious but it makes for a lot of fun. The spider here and its web is another major plus. Fans of the director will certainly enjoy the humor here and if you're new to Melies then this is a good place to start.

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