“He sits asleep at a bare table; old witch enters, raps three times, then disappears; cavalier sees table spread for a sumptuous repast. Mephistopheles appears; then the old witch, who suddenly changes to a beautiful young girl. The changes and magical appearances are startling and instantaneous.”

– Edison Catalog

This is the description film distributor, Edison Studios, gave to describe this short one-minute Vitagraph Studios film from December of 1898. The effects used in the film were certainly ambitious for the time and in his debut directing role, film pioneer Edwin S. Porter did a fantastic job creating a macabre environment. My two biggest issues with the film are the title and the opening. We know from both right away that nothing in the film is real and is instead just a dream. There may have been logistical reasonings for this based on the period that resulted in this choice. In these early days of moving pictures, concerns of hysteria may have persuaded the reasoning, though it does eliminate some of the suspense. Considering the early time period of the film, in comparison to others of the time, I feel that Porter’s attempt at portraying a spooky story was accomplished. It is also clear that Georges Méliès had an impact on the techniques used however at least based on surviving films, I feels as though this was much darker than those created by Méliès in the same timespan.

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