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Dancing Skeletons and Troublesome Heads: Joyously Macabre Films of the 1890s

November 15, 2014

Le Squelette Joyeux

Although the first years of film and its early pioneers present a fascinating and occasionally bizarre history suited to a much longer post, today I thought we’d simply focus on two short and deliciously outlandish movies from the dawn of film. These films both tackle rather gruesome subjects; a dancing skeleton who falls apart and reassembles itself, a man dealing with four interchangeable heads.  But don’t expect the gloomy or horrific, though…these macabre specters couldn’t be happier.

Our first film is Le Squelette Joyeux (The Skeleton of Joy), created in 1897 by Auguste & Louis Lumière. These Brothers Lumière worked in still photography until 1892, when they began patenting processes that led to the first ever screening of a projected motion picture in 1895. Although Thomas Edison’s laboratory was producing moving pictures slightly earlier than this, the Lumières’ improvements included the addition of projection technology that allowed a group of…

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