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Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (DVD Review)

16 Mar, 2008 By: John Latchem

Revisiting a Pioneer of Film

Many film fans may not recognize the name Georges Méliès, a French filmmaker who pioneered many of the film techniques used today. Flicker Alley and Blackhawk Films are celebrating his achievements with a new five-DVD collection, Georges Méliès; First Wizard of Cinema. The $89.95 set includes 173 Méliès short films made between 1896 and 1913. It’s a must-have for anyone interested in the history of film.

Méliès made a living as a magician before applying his craft toward creating illusions on film, employing trick photography that is pretty complex considering the era. He also experimented with color and special effects. Some of his sight gags aren’t that different from “Benny Hill” sketches recorded 80 years later.

The films presented cover a number of subjects, from Méliès’ obsession with floating heads, to a series about the famed Dreyfuss Affair, to his masterpiece Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) made in 1902. It is from the latter we get the iconic image of a space capsule crashing into the eye of the Man in the Moon.

Some of the films have a running commentary that can be toggled on or off. The DVD set also includes a guide book and the half-hour biography Le Grand Méliès, made by director Georges Franju in 1953.

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