Produced at Vitagraph's Brooklyn studio, the film features a mustachioed actor named Paul Panzer who would become best known playing the villain in the famous serial The Perils of Pauline. Here we see Mr. Panzer as a proper Edwardian gentleman seated, presumably in his home, at a table as well stocked as any tobacconist's shop with cigars, cigarettes, pipe, loose tobacco, and wooden matches. As the film begins, the gentleman puts aside his newspaper and yawns and stretches in a histrionic fashion, suggesting he's already half asleep and that what follows may be a dream. Certainly what follows is dreamlike, for almost immediately the lid of a cigar box swings open and two fairies about the size of hamsters emerge. One fairy is a young girl while the other looks more mature and Glinda-like. The older fairy seems to be encouraging the girl to cause mischief, which she is only too happy to do. The gentleman realizes he is not alone when he attempts to light his pipe and finds a giggling fairy in the bowl, underneath the tobacco. The rest of the film involves a battle of wills between the gentleman and the fairy, as each one strives to hassle, harass, and torment the other. In the end, the battle is essentially a draw.
The filmmakers utilized every camera trick available at the time to achieve their desired effects, and may well have concocted new ones. Double exposure, reverse image, and stop-motion photography were all employed, as well as two old-time stage tricks: enlarged props and images reflected in mirrors. A book about motion pictures by Frederick Talbot published in 1912 devoted an entire chapter to this eight- minute film, and it's easy to see why: this movie represented state-of-the- art special effects for its day. Almost a century later, Princess Nicotine is still a delightful treat.