April 8, 2019  (Web Review)

Méliès Fairy Tales in Color

Flicker Alley, 145 min., not rated, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $36.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Magician-turned-filmmaker Georges Méliès was a pioneer and showman who embraced the movies as a new kind of stage for his flights of fantasy, wondrous spectacle, and illusions. Many of the director’s hundreds of short films have appeared on home video over the years, some in fine editions and most of them in black and white. But Méliès released many of his films in color by painting key figures in bright, vibrant hues—an expensive and painstaking process that involved a veritable assembly line of workers individually coloring every frame of each print by hand. This release collects hand-colored versions of 13 short films produced between 1899 and 1909, newly restored for this collection. The most famous is the legendary “A Trip to the Moon,” a 15-minute sci-fi fantasy classic previously available in a special edition release. Other films here range from cartoonish shorts built on tricks and magical spectacle—“The Pillar of Fire” (1899) and “The Infernal Cauldron” (1903)—to fantastical spectacles like “The Impossible Voyage” (1904), which travels from the Earth to the sun to under the sea, and “The Merry Frolics of Satan” (1906). Also included are classics stories such as “Robinson Crusoe” (1902) and “Rip’s Dream” (1905), the latter based on “Rip Van Winkle.” All of these films spotlight Méliès’ whimsical imagination and feature fantastical sets and special effects. Méliès also wrote narration to accompany his films and seven here are presented with optional narration by film historian Serge Bromberg and Fabrice Zagury (the printed text is also included in an accompanying booklet). Overall, this is a fine sampling of Méliès’s silent films, presented with new scores. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)