This film is so strange, the first time I saw it I wondered if perhaps I'd nodded off midway and imagined parts of it. It's fragmented, crazy, and macabre, like some bizarre dream. Then I saw it again and realized—no, this is no dream, it really is weird as hell. And that's precisely what's so enjoyable about it, and makes it worth seeing today, more than a century after it was made. It's obvious that the people who created these very early movies were making it all up as they went along, and just as obvious that they were having a great time doing so. And the Villain Still Pursued Her (etc.) is one of those rudimentary efforts in which the filmmakers' giddy excitement with the new medium, and their delight in the possibilities with the motion picture camera, is vividly conveyed.
The opening shot suggests that what we're about to see is a melodrama, possibly a tragedy. A decrepit looking man sits in a decaying room. He has paper stretched out on a table before him, and gestures melodramatically, apparently struggling to write something. Possibly a suicide note? Suddenly, he collapses at his table. The room he's in transforms into a much nicer, upper class dwelling. A young woman in black dashes into the room, followed by a villainous looking man in a top hat and tail coat. He pledges his love to her, but she emphatically rejects him. The man leaves, distraught. Our "hero," the decrepit looking author, then pledges HIS love to her, and she's receptive, but the villain returns with a pistol, shoots the author in the head, and departs. The woman promptly operates on the wounded author—with a hack saw! She saws his head open, drills into the wound with an auger, plucks out the bullet, and stops up the wound with what appears to be an ice pick. (After repeat viewings I'm still not sure what the thing is supposed to be.) In any case, the author runs around with this pointed device sticking out of his head for the rest of the movie.
At this point, anyhow, we know that what we're watching is an absurdist comedy, and a wild one at that. This is reinforced when the villain reappears with a dagger in each hand, and chases the woman up several flights of stairs, as our author hero follows after them. On the roof, the lady and the villain each leap off and swiftly return, courtesy of footage run backward. Our three principle players then take turns hurling themselves down the stairs. There's an extended routine involving a dumbwaiter, where the villain's leg gets stretched like a character in a Bob Clampett cartoon. And then suddenly everyone is outside, in what appears to be a park, where a Wizard of Oz style hot air balloon awaits. Naturally, our characters climb aboard and continue their escapades high in the sky. Things get even crazier before all is resolved, sort of.
From this brief description it should be clear that this 1906 short, And the Villain Still Pursued Her (etc.), is a deliberately wacky, surreal experience. It was produced at a time when "trick films" made by Georges Méliès and his many imitators were still very popular. The director, J. Stuart Blackton, was a co-founder of the Vitagraph Company and a true pioneer, a tireless filmmaker who cranked out dozens of shorts in every genre. After watching this one I'd be happy to see as much of his work as still exists. So many of these early films are lost, but I'm glad this one survives. It's a hoot!
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