At the Musée Grévin in Paris, in January 2012, film scholars and filmmakers were invited to a mystery screening by one of the world’s foremost film collector, Edgar A. Wallace. The film shown turns out to be La Rage du Démon, a late 1800s lost film that creates quite a ruckus every time it’s screened. The last screening in New York City ended in tragedy. The Paris screening does not go much better. This documentary explores both what happened at those screenings as well as the film and its history.
Writer/Director Fabian Delage explores the history of horror cinema, of what lead to the making of the short silent film often times attributed to George Mélies who never claimed it as his own. He builds his documentary on interviews with film scholars, filmmakers, researchers, and even a relative of Mélies’. He explores the films of Mélies and of Victor Sicarius, the other potential director of La Rage du Démon, he also explores their lives and what they brought to cinema. Some of the interviews here are with Dave Alexander, Philippe Rouyer, Alexandre Aja, Christophe Gans, and Pauline Mélies amongst many others.
These interviews are very informative creating an educational documentary all genre fans should see. La Rage du Démon may be the main subject here due to the mystery surrounding it, but the whole history of the horror genre pre Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is exposed and explored. Also touched upon is how such films came to be, their inspirations and how they were made. Footage from the late 1800s/early 1900s adds to the subjects discussed and brings visual interest to something that could have been a very dry subject given all the historical facts and anecdotes involved.
Fanian Delage clearly has an eye for good, fascinating documentary subjects as well as has a touch that makes the documentary entertaining and almost mystifying as he chose a subject here that will probably never be fully clarified. La Rage du Démon is relatively short at a run time of just one hour which is definitely a good choice as any longer could have become tedious and boring. The short run time forces things to be tight and well edited, leaving all extraneous footage on the cutting room floor. La Rage du Démon is a must see for both horror fans and film history buffs alike.
Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.