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The Man with the Rubber Head (1901)

L'homme à la tête en caoutchouc (original title)
A chemist carries out a bizarre experiment with his own head.

Director:

Georges Méliès (uncredited)
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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Georges Méliès ... The Chemist / The India Rubber Head (uncredited)
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Storyline

After years of research and experimentation, a visionary scientist has finally found the way to inflate living organisms and body parts, so he uses his own head for one last test. Excited with the results and his unexpected discovery, he invites his faithful assistant to share his triumph and witness firsthand the amazing transformation, however, the enthralled helper's carelessness will have an unavoidable conclusion. Written by Nick Riganas

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Genres:

Short | Comedy | Fantasy

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

France

Release Date:

1901 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

A gumifejű ember See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Star-Film See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent
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Did You Know?

Connections

Featured in Méliès' Magic Show (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The movie biz always gives 'em a big head
19 August 2015 | by pyrocitorSee all my reviews

It's safe to assume that Georges Méliès likely got the idea for The Man With the Rubber Head from jabs regarding his own 'swelling head' as self-styled filmmaker/magician extraordinaire. That same mischievous sense of playfulness pervades the short, aptly casting Méliès as 'mad scientist' on and off-camera, who toys with multiple exposure and a fascinating early tracking shot to create the illusion of inflating his own head with a set of fireplace bellows. What is the point of this experiment, both cinematically and narratively? Why, simply for the thrill of experimentation, and the joy of unusual visual marvels, naturally! And who could ask for anything more?

Fun supplants wonder as prime motivation here, as the mise-en-scène suggests a period-set skit as opposed to Méliès' usual fourth wall breaching 'magic trick' setup. There is no closing bow to the audience here, suggesting a more immersive, narrative-based approach to the medium, which Méliès would continue to push the envelope with in subsequent more story- based films such as the iconic Trip to the Moon. However, although the cinematic trickery is fun, even over a century after the short's release, it's really the physicality of Méliès himself – often overlooked as a talented physical comedian as well as groundbreaking filmmaker – that makes the short the most delightful. There's a great gag in the impromptu timing of his scientist's "Eureka!" gesture, seemingly arbitrarily interrupting his chemistry experiment to instead inflate his own head, and the rare early close-up of Méliès' expanded head indignantly writhing and waggling his moustache is endearingly charming in its own right.

Of course, the whole thing ends up a setup to a punchline that was likely predictable even in 1901, but it's still good fun, and sold with a classic slapstick boot to the rear for good measure. The Man With the Rubber Head may play as antiquated and gimmicky to contemporary audiences, but its cheeky, self-reflexive sense of humour is more than enough to deflate even the most curmudgeonly of critics, whose heads have probably had their fair share of being inflated themselves.

-8/10


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