The End of the World

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(6/10) In a nutshell: Danish moral story and apocalypse film about the coming of a comet, The End of the World (1916), has stunning special effects and some interesting drama, but is bogged down by too many subplots and unexplored themes. 

The End of the World (Verdens Undergang), 1916, Denmark. Written by Otto Rung. Based on the novel La Fin du Monde by Camille Flammarion (uncredited). Directed by August Blom. Starring: Olaf Fønss, Ebba Thomsen, Johanne Fritz-Petersen, Frederik Jacobsen. IMDb score: 6.3

The Maiden and the Church at the End of the World. Yes, he is waving to Adam. Seriously.

The Maiden and the Church at the End of the World. Yes, he is waving to Adam. Seriously.

Danish August Blom is unfortunately one of those early film pioneers that don’t get much recognition these days. If remembered, it is chiefly for Atlantis, his ambitious film about the sinking of a large passenger ship – released in 1913, just a year after Titanic had gone down. Among film buffs he has a reputation for developing the genre of the erotic melodrama, and for being an early pioneer for cross-cutting of scenes for dramatic effect. Among fans of sci-fi, though, he is remembered for making the first post-apocalyptic science fiction film, Verdens Undergang, or The End of the World, made in 1916.

If Atlantis can be faulted for something, it’s that we never get a shot of the actual sinking of the ship, or even decks filling with water. One moment she is floating perfectly straight while people climb into life boats, in the next shot only the stern protrudes above the water line. Blom did not make the same mistake in The End of the World, depicting a comet brushing the Earth. Here we get superbly exciting scenes of burning meteorites scorching the landscape, houses on fire, explosions and water flooding buildings with people inside. With this film, Blom has captured an apocalyptic event on a truly epic scale, and the films deserves at least as good a reputation as Atlantis. Continue reading

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(4/10) In a nutshell: The 1912 American film Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the earliest surviving film adaptation of the novel. It’s not an especially well directed, but a decently acted and fairly entertaining version.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 1912, USA. Directed by Lucius Henderson. Written by: Screenplay writer uncredited, possibly Hendrson. Based on the play by Thomas Russell Sullivan, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Starring: James Cruz, Florence La Badie. Produced for Thanhouser. IMDb score: 5.9

James Cruze as Mr Hyde in 1912.

James Cruze as Mr Hyde in 1912.

One of the most adapted books in the world is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for short, as there are over 120 known film adaptations and dozens of stage versions. There is endless debate over whether or not the book qualifies as science fiction, with the purists settling firmly on the ”not” side. Since I am taking the broad road on his blog, I fail to completely see why. It is, in any case, the story of a scientist using science (a potion) to change not his appearance, but losing his personality and morals in the act, and using science to stop his ailment when the experiment goes sour. It is both a moral tale about balancing your dark and light sides, and a cautionary tale about the progress of science, much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In my book those are the premises for science fiction.

This version, made in the US in 1912, is a short and very basic 12 minute retelling of the story. It was not the first adaptation of the film, but probably the earliest surviving version. As far as I can tell, it is actually the 6th version of the book. Continue reading