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Fury of the Demon (2016)

La rage du Démon (original title)
A documentary investigation on the rarest and most controversial French movie in the history of early cinema: a fascinating, lost and dangerous short film which causes violent reactions to those who watch it.

Director:

Fabien Delage

Writer:

Fabien Delage
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Cast

Credited cast:
Alexandre Aja ... Self
Dave Alexander Dave Alexander ... Self
Jean-Jacques Bernard Jean-Jacques Bernard ... Self
Christophe Gans ... Self
Pauline Méliès Pauline Méliès ... Self
Philippe Rouyer Philippe Rouyer ... Self
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A documentary investigation on the rarest and most controversial French movie in the history of early cinema: a fascinating, lost and dangerous short film which causes violent reactions to those who watch it.

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The most dangerous movie of all time is also one of the first.


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In Praise of Lost Films
18 July 2016 | by gavin6942See all my reviews

Paris, January 2012. The famous film collector Edgar Wallace invites the media to the screening of a film from 1897, long assumed lost and sometimes regarded as an outright myth: "La Rage du Demon". According to some, the film is by Georges Méliès, or perhaps Victor Sicarius, a forgotten friend of the fantasy film pioneer. The screening becomes a nightmare, the audience gripped by a murderous frenzy — as it has every time the film has inexplicably surfaced, once in each century.

This documentary, "La Rage du Demon" (alternately called "Fury of the Demon"), has two layers to it. One is grounded firmly in facts: a biography of Georges Melies, arguably the founder of cinema as we know it. And the other is more spurious: did Melies create a film that is cursed, and has it really caused audiences to go mad?

The first layer is of crucial importance, because it shines a light on lost films, and the early French role in cinema history. With Pauline Melies talking of her grandfather's involvement in magic and Rue Morgue's Dave Alexander commenting on the role of Melies in creating horror pre-German expressionism, we are treated to a re-exploration of Melies and his work. Any casual historian of cinema knows that Melies was vitally important, but how many people have seen much of his output beyond "A Trip to the Moon"? Clips shown here reveal he was much more than that one film.

The topic of spiritualism is also discussed, which is a fascinating part of religious history that few speak about today. Why it died out is not clear, but it plays a dual role in the story of Melies. One, the world of spiritualism often overlapped with the world of magic – no less a figure than Harry Houdini was mesmerized by the movement. But also, the peak of spiritualism and the birth of cinema coincide – even if one did not directly influence the other, they were born of the same world.

The second layer is spell-binding, though it is left to the audience to decide if they believe any of the legend. Following a story that bears more than a passing resemblance to John Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns", we hear that a rare screening of this semi-lost film ("La Rage du Demon") had attendees acting like zombies, and one viewer thinking he suffered a stroke. One person even died of a heart attack and more than ten were wounded. Worse than that, this is the third time such a thing has happened since the film's original November 1897 screening.

Interviewing such a figure as director Alexandre Aja adds to the realism, and for those who find the idea of curses to be silly, the documentary offers an alternate explanation: perhaps the film was inadvertently coated with a hallucinogenic chemical that becomes airborne when it heats up on the projector. A quick Internet search adds more doubt, however, when we find it hard to track down Victor Sicarius (Melies' occult protégé) or the story of actress Juliette Andre and her mutilation murder, which surely would have made history.

Whether the second layer is true or merely a clever ruse concocted by the director is ultimately unimportant, however, because the second layer serves primarily to reinforce the first. If the film inspires viewers to re-evaluate George Melies, read and learn more about his life, watch his films, or gain an appreciation for lost films, this documentary is a resounding success. And I think it does exactly that. Here's hoping that more of Melies' work can be found… not to mention lost movies from Thomas Edison, Karl Freund, F. W. Murnau, and many others.

"La Rage du Demon" premieres July 18 at the Fantasia International Film Festival, and is sure to inspire a new generation of both cinema lovers and cinema creators. At a lean 60 minutes, it is time well-spent.


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Country:

France

Language:

French

Release Date:

29 March 2017 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Fury of the Demon See more »

Filming Locations:

France See more »

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Hippocampe Productions See more »
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Color
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