Wednesday, 22 April 2009


In contrast with some of Georges Méliès’ better known works, the fantasy world in The Merry Frolics Of Satan is one of two realities presented in the film, and is ultimately the more dangerous. As in his classics A Trip To The Moon and The Impossible Voyage, it concerns a phantasmagorical expedition which goes awry, but this film takes a far darker turn. A gullible English engineer called William Crackford is drawn into a Faustian scenario when his insatiable curiosity leads him to make a critical deal with a suspicious wizard. His side of the exchange gives him and his friend the opportunity to travel in an extraordinary train, the carriages of which form spontaneously from nearby furniture. But not long after the train sets out on its journey with a group of anonymous passengers in tow, disaster strikes in the form of a collapsed bridge, with Crackford and the wizard as the only survivors. Shortly after, the two embark upon another journey in a macabre coach made from comets and stars, and pulled by a skeletal horse. The revelation that the wizard is in fact the devil comes far too late for Crackford as the torrid trip deteriorates fatally, with a finale that is both comical and macabre.

Méliès abandons the frivolity of his earlier shorts, constructing more of an allegory than a fantasy, suggesting deeper implications for his religious ambiguity. He adds dimension to his set pieces too, the most impressive of which is the terrifying apocalyptic coach.

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