The subtitle, "The Medium Exposed", to the question that is this film's title "Is Spiritualism a Fraud?" quickly provides the filmmakers' answer to their own question. Furthermore, the film's first scene is of a séance interrupted and its trickery exposed. In it, the medium has himself tied to a chair and the lights turned out. His assistant, who had been hiding in a box, then performs tricks that supposedly liken themselves to the appearance of spirits. One of the customers, however, turns the lights back on during this fraud, and the customers quickly retaliate. The medium's assistant flees the scene, while the bound medium is nailed inside the box and taken to the side of a curb. From here, two policemen discover the bound medium. This is where the film's punishment becomes even more outrageous; the policemen proceed to parade the bound medium down a street to further humiliate him and, one assumes, to serve as a warning to other spiritualist mediums.
Spiritualism is bunk, but nonetheless has continued to this day and has even made its way onto television. Moreover, many faiths have incorporated parts of spiritualism even if they don't believe in the entertainment field of séances and mediums. Yet, regardless of such frauds, the punishment dealt out in this film is outrageous and unjust. I wonder whether the filmmaker's meant the film as comedic, because this punishment is just too absurdly violent, but to my eyes, the film doesn't seem to be intended as comedy. Additionally, no matter what the filmmakers intended, it raises the question of the film's potential to incite the violence similar to that fictionally depicted. But, that is still a contentious debate today.
Otherwise, this is a well-constructed film for 1906. Action is continuous across five scenes, and the transition between interiors to exteriors is fluid. There are even some brief tracking shots at the end, which is noticeable because not many of the remaining films from Paul's Animatograph Works displays a mobile camera. Besides, today, we can view this as a weird early film; for that, it's somewhat interesting in itself.
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