The Devil’s Plaything
Edwin S. Porter and other early filmmakers used bizarre sets, fantastic costumes, and magic lantern tricks to illuminate their fantasy films. American parody supplied Douglas Fairbanks with enough unusual material to produce the truly surreal When the Clouds Roll By (1919). The expressionistic Cabinet of Dr. Calagari (1919) influenced American sensibilities throughout
the 1920s as seen in Beggar of Horseback (1925), The Life and Death of 9413-A Hollywood Extra (1927) and The Telltale Heart (1928). The emphasis shifted when amateurs J.S. Watson, Jr., Joseph Cornell, and Orson Welles crafted a unique variety of American surrealism on film unfettered by European concerns.
Jack and the Beanstalk (1902)—Edwin S. Porter
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)—Edwin S. Porter
The Thieving Hand (1907)—creator unknown, Vitagraph
Impossible Convicts (1905)—G.W. "Billy" Bitzer
When the Clouds Roll By (1919)—Douglas Fairbanks & Victor Fleming (excerpt)
Beggar on Horseback (1925)—James Cruze (excerpt)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1926-27)—J.S. Watson, Jr. & Melville Webber
The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra (1927)— Robert Florey & Slavko Vorkapich
The Love of Zero (1928)—Robert Florey & William Cameron Menzies
The Telltale Heart (1928)—Charles Klein
Tomatos Another Day (1930/1933)—J.S. Watson, Jr. & Alec Wilder
The Hearts of Age (1934)— William Vance & Orson Welles
Unreal News Reels (c. 1926)—Weiss Artclass Comedies (excerpt)
The Children’s Jury (c. 1938)—attributed Joseph Cornell
Thimble Theater (c. 1938)—Joseph Cornell
Carousel: Animal Opera (c. 1938)—Joseph Cornell
Jack’s Dream (c. 1938)—Joseph Cornell
"An amazing collection, with plenty of playful surrealism and literate influences, many films long thought lost and many more never known to even have existed."
—The Guardian, London
UNSEEN CINEMA: THE DEVIL’S PLAYTHING is one of a seven-DVD series exploring American avant-garde cinema from 1894-1941. Presented by Anthology Film Archives in association with the British Film Institute, Cineric, Film Preservation Associates, Deutsches Filmmuseum, George Eastman House, The Library of Congress and The Museum of Modern Art.
"Orson Welles’ The Hearts of Age is his surreal celebration of Death, as impersonated by the man himself in leering expressionist makeup."
—City Pages, St. Paul/Minneapolis
Films preserved by
The American Film Institute
Anthology Film Archives
British Film Institute
Film Preservation Associates
The Library of Congress
Runtime: 161 minutes
Language: English - Sound & Silent