Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The X-Ray Fiend (1897)

DIRECTOR: George Albert Smith


Laura Bayley
Tom Green


A flirting couple has an x-ray machine turned on them that reveals their insides.

After delving into my first couple of Georges Méliès short films. I decided to tackle a short film from George Albert Smith. In some film circles, he is considered to be the English Georges Méliès. 
Like Georges Méliès, he is supposed to be a movie pioneer. I get the comparisons of these two film pioneers after watching The X-Ray Fiend which is also known as The X-Rays or X-Rays. This short feels very similar to Georges Méliès work. Both in tone and feel.

The X-Ray Fiend runs at a short 45 seconds. As with the other shorts I've reviewed. This doesn't feel very horror. For the late 1800's, this was never going to be a short film filled with scares and blood. That's to be expected. Audiences back then would have sat and watched these short films in amazement and astonishment. Just the visual tricks of a couple turning into skeletons would have been enough to frighten viewers back in that period.

While I have enjoyed the last couple of short films that I've watched. I think The X-Ray Fiend is neither here nor there for me. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. I couldn't fault it for the sheer fact that this is one of those early pieces of cinema that paved the way and for that, I have to respect it. But when it comes to the idea and visuals, it feels a little less impressive than 
Georges Méliès short films. Still, I admire all of the history behind this short film.

Following only a year after a couple of the short films that I had already seen, it feels like this falls just short and is a step back regarding the cinematography and visuals. George Albert Smith coming up after 
Georges Méliès feels like there is a talent there but for my first short film from him, it feels a little gritty and less polished. This is all very grainy regarding aesthetic. I know this all falls back on the period but for some reason, I think this felt a lot more simple.

Lastly, when it comes to the acting. It's hard to review or even be harsh on the acting as this short is another silent film. There is not one bit of dialogue. No subtitles. All of the acting all feels very theatrical or like a play. This is in the vain of a pantomime or comedy show. For that, the two actors deliver lots of charm and have a lot of fun with their performances. It takes a lot of talent to give a good performance with absolutely no dialogue and only expressions.



- There is no blood or gore in this short film.

The X-Ray Fiend deserves a watch for the sheer fact this is one of those early bits of horror cinema. While I personally don't class this as a straight-up horror and more of a comedy short, the addition of a couple of skeletons lends itself to the genre in that sense. With two very charming performances, this feels very much like a pantomime. I think following up after two 
Georges Méliès shorts, this feels a little more simplistic regarding the story. I can't be hard on it when it runs at forty-five seconds.

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