Horror has always played a role in the entertainment of mankind. From tales of surviving an animal attack told over our first fires in caves to the slashers and thrillers we have streaming from satellites into our theaters today. Horror seems to be an integral part of our existence. I have been wandering down the path of why I think that is the case, but I will save that question for another day. Today, I wanted to talk about the first horror movie ever made. And to get to that, I feel there’s a little additional information needed. So, for the sake of a little context here’s a micro-history of the birth of film.
The Birth of Film
The first real sequence of photos that could be strung together to create a moving image was taken by multiple cameras set up around a horse race track. This experiment was conducted between 1872 and 1877 by British-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge. We jump ahead, passing Etienne-Jules Marey’s 1882 rifle-shaped photo-gun that was the first single camera to take multiple pictures in quick succession. Skip on past 1887 when Hannibal Goodwin began using celluloid for image capture. (Instead of the glass and paper used previously). And we land in 1888 when William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, one of Thomas Edison’s assistants, invented a motion picture recorder called the “Kinetograph”.
Dickson built upon the work of Muybridge and Marey, a fact that he readily acknowledged, but he was the first to combine the two final essentials of motion-picture recording and viewing technology. These were a device, adapted from the escapement mechanism of a clock, to ensure the intermittent but regular motion of the film strip through the camera and a regularly perforated celluloid film strip to ensure precise synchronization between the film strip and the shutter. Dickson’s camera, the Kinetograph, initially imprinted up to 50 feet (15 metres) of celluloid film at the rate of about 40 frames per second. (www.britannica.com).
So now moving images could be captured and played back, but until the Lumiere brothers thought up projectors in 1894, you had to awkwardly stand over a box and peer through a little hole in the top to see these images.
The Lumiere brothers reinvented the camera and called it, the “cinématographe”. They made it way faster and way lighter which allowed for the camera escape filming only in studios. The first motion picture is considered to be this clip of people walking around: https://youtu.be/auXeNshGQn0
Eventually the novelty of making moving pictures wore down and people began to experiment with story telling in the medium.
Which then leads us to our question of the day.
What was the 1st horror Movie ever made?
Gothic horror was in full fad in the 19th century when the earliest horror film was created by Georges Meilies, called, “Le Manoir Du Diable” (roughly translated that’s “The Devil’s Castle) in 1896. It was about 2 minutes long and featured bats flying around, a devil, dramatic poofs of smoke, and a hysterical yet unsettling appearance of ghosts. And here she is, the fist horror film ever made:
Highly interesting! As far as I can recall, the earliest horror film I was aware of was Edison’s 1910 adaptation of Frankenstein, so it’s interesting to know that this predates it by nearly 15 years.
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I was surprised as well. I had thought somewhere in the teens was it’s beginning.
Hey! Georges Méliès, as in The Invention of Hugo Cabret?
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Indeed, the same man. He sparks people’s dreams and nightmares with his use of the medium. Isn’t kind of incredible one person can make such a huge impact?