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J. Searle Dawley
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La maison ensorcelée is a remake of J. Stuart Blackton's The Haunted Hotel, which, at the same time, Chomón would remake more ambitiously the following year under the title The Electric Hotel. These remakes were the norm back in those days; as a consequence, copyright issues would arise but, until then, life was all a bowl of cherries to filmmakers.
Blackton's film was so successful in Europe, Pathé ordered Chomón to make a version of it and, even though some of the scenes (especially the one containing food being served on the table all by itself) are copied frame by frame, it isn't fair to give all the credit to Blackton since Segundo de Chomón had released his La maison hantée a year before The Haunted Hotel appeared. Who should we thank then? Méliès again. A bunch of tourists being harassed by spirits at some inn was certainly a recurrent subject matter in his movies, take The Black Devil as an example.
Regarding this movie, the two first scenes (introducing the atmosphere) are quite impressive: it's raining, the trees move as the wind blows and rays were added to the print causing a really shocking effect. It does look like a hell of a night (which couldn't be easy to portray so well in silent films). Three travelers take shelter in a house by the woods in which every kind of funny thing is going to happen: a ghost appears, clothes begin to fly all of the sudden, a painting comes to life, the house starts shaking up and so on.
The copy I had the chance to view came from the Nederlands Filmmuseum and I must say it was pretty neat and very well conserved too. The effects are very successful, scary even to this day; performances are good too, but once again it lacks originality. Chomón was an expert in imitating things and even though he did not invent anything, he helped to develop some important techniques. His use of the stop-motion in this movie is amazing. This is a great film I could watch all over again and again.
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