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Gulliver's Travels (1902)
"Le voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants" (original title)

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Of all the beautiful stories ever told none are more interesting than Gulliver's Travels. How Gulliver set out on a journey and was shipwrecked on an island, where he found strange people, ... See full summary »

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Title: Gulliver's Travels (1902)

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Of all the beautiful stories ever told none are more interesting than Gulliver's Travels. How Gulliver set out on a journey and was shipwrecked on an island, where he found strange people, so small that a hundred of them full size could safely repose in the hollow of his hand. How he fell asleep, was discovered by the inhabitants of the island and securely bound with thousands of feet of cord and made to promise to do everything he was told under pain of instant death. He became a favorite with the people, who finally trusted him, but his roving nature would not permit him to settle there permanently. A most interesting part of this film is in which the King and Queen arrive to look on the giant from a strange land, and as the Queen arrives and sits down, Gulliver immediately lifts her upon the table, upon which he has prepared his food, and the Queen and he hold intercourse, after which he again places her and the receptacle in which she is carried, to the ground. Immediately after a... Written by Lubin Catalog

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Short | Fantasy

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13 April 1903 (USA)  »

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Gulliver's Travels  »

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(hand colored)

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1.33 : 1
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Jonathan Swift in four minutes? Swift indeed!
15 August 2009 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

This charming fantasy was produced by Georges Méliès, master of the trick film, and was made not long after his epochal "Le voyage dans la lune," the cinema's premiere science-fiction adventure which was based on a story by Jules Verne. This version of Jonathan Swift's famous tale is considerably shorter and simpler than the Verne adaptation, featuring only a few key moments from the first two sections of Swift's book, but the scenic and photographic effects are memorable and certainly up to the director's high standard. And happily, a hand-colored print survives that looks like a brightly illustrated edition of the book come to life.

It's possible that the film originally began with a shipwreck sequence, but as it stands the surviving footage begins abruptly with the image of a giant Gulliver striding through Lilliput, stepping over rooftops. This Gulliver is an old man with a white beard and a hooked nose, a comical old fellow who mugs and gesticulates vigorously throughout. (I believe he's played by Méliès himself, but I'm not sure of that.) Next he's trussed up and sleeping as the small but angry citizens of Lilliput gather on a bridge above him with spears and pitchforks, and prod him aggressively. Soon afterward, however, the giant guest receives much friendlier treatment: Gulliver sits at an enormous dinner table as a team of tiny chefs serve him food. A royal procession arrives, but the pageantry is interrupted when a fire breaks out in the castle, causing a panic. This Gulliver, being less vulgar than Swift's, puts out the flames with a spray of seltzer water.

And then all of a sudden we're in Brobdingnag, the land of the giants. This world is represented in a sequence apparently set in a palace. We see a tight medium shot of three individuals (highly unusual in Méliès' surviving work), two nobles and a midget who is probably a court jester. The nobles play cards while the jester chatters away, but the trio are interrupted when a lady arrives and excitedly deposits a small bundle on the table: it's Gulliver of course, shocked at the size of the giants who surround him. Everyone gestures busily. In one final shot Gulliver is alone with the lady and tries to speak to her, but she indicates she can't hear him. He attempts to climb a ladder to address her but falls backward into a huge teacup!

Needless to say this very short film provides only a quick montage of amusing moments, not a story which can stand on its own for anyone unfamiliar with Swift, but it's strikingly well made for its time and still funny. Here is a fine sample of imaginative special effects work by a legendary film-making pioneer, still at the height of his powers.


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