Cult Movie Essentials

Cult Movie Essentials: Le Manoir du Diable (1896)

Viewed by many as the first horror film and first Vampire film, Le Manoir du diable (aka The House of the Devil, The Haunted Castle, The Devil’s Castle) is an 1896 French short silent film written and directed by Georges Méliès.
The film opens with a large bat flying into a medieval castle. The bat circles the room, before suddenly changing into Mephistopheles (Jules-Eugène Legris), an incarnation of the Devil. Mephistopheles produces a cauldron and an assistant, who helps him conjure a woman (Jeanne d’Alcy) from the cauldron.
The room is cleared shortly before two cavaliers enter. The devil’s assistant pokes their backs before instantaneously transporting to different areas of the room, confusing the pair and causing one to flee. The second stays and has several other tricks played on him, such as furniture being moved around and the sudden appearance of a skeleton.
The cavalier is unfazed, using a sword to attack the skeleton, which then turns into a bat, then into Mephistopheles, who conjures four spectres to subdue the man. Recovering from the spectres’ attack, the man is visibly dazed and is brought the woman from the cauldron, who impresses him with her beauty. Mephistopheles then turns her into a withered old crone in front of the man’s eyes, then again into the four spectres.
The second cavalier returns and after a brief show of bravery, flees again, this time by leaping over the balcony’s edge. After the spectres disappear, the cavalier is confronted face-to-face by the Devil before reaching for and brandishing a large crucifix, which causes the devil to vanish.

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