The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy (1915, Willis O’Brien)

Until the Missing Link shows up, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link is strangely realistic. Director O’Brien’s stop motion creations–he always uses long shot–seem like actors, like any other silent with a terrible print. It’s eerie. Even the gorilla-like Missing Link occasionally looks like a guy in costume. O’Brien’s eyes are fantastic, along with characters’ barely moving pauses between lines.

O’Brien imagines the prehistoric world as a spoof on high society. For a while, it’s just a really funny short. Then, once the Missing Link arrives, it’s clear O’Brien’s going to make the stop motion exciting in addition to excellent. The cast goes on a hunt, one involving a fantastic bow and arrow shot, the titular Dinosaur and a lot of landscape sets. Models. You know what I mean.

For the conclusion, O’Brien finds a mix of humor, realism and special effects. It’s a wonderful little picture.

3/3Highly Recommended


Directed, animated and photographed by Willis O’Brien; produced by Herman Wobbler; released by Conquest Pictures.

Love’s Surprises (1915, Max Linder)

Calling Love’s Surprises a tepid comedy would be an understatement. Writer-director-star Linder fails to understand the very basics of drama, which puts the whole short in the dumps right off.

It opens with a dinner party. The three men at the party all run off to grab hidden flowers for a girl. Unsurprisingly, they’re all courting the same girl. Only, Linder never establishes why the men are sneaking out or why they wouldn’t admit association with her.

I guess the comedy’s supposed to be in the girl hiding them around her room in closets, pianos or just under a blanket… but it’s not funny. Surprises only comes alive at the end when the girl’s friend shows up and they abuse the hiding men.

For the finish, one of the men apparently “buys” the girl (who isn’t present) from his chums.

Surprises successfully mixes unfunny, odd, discomforting and weird.

1/3Not Recommended


Written and directed by Max Linder; released by Pathé Frères.

Starring Max Linder (Max), Lucy d’Orbel (Lili) and Georges Gorby.

The Vampires: The Ring That Kills (1915, Louis Feuillade)

In The Ring That Kills, Feuillade goes with a gradual build-up and a rather tense finish. There’s no recap of the previous Vampires entry, which gets confusing towards the end, when a supporting character returns.

Feuillade uses that character, played by Marcel Lévesque, as comic relief. He’s just revealed the Vampires evil plan for protagonist Édouard Mathé and things aren’t looking good for him.

Then Lévesque bumbles in and relieves a bunch of the tension for a while.

That scene is the best in the short, which has some other good scenes, but it’s where Feuillade finally takes a breather.

Early in Ring, he introduces Stacia Napierkowska as a dancer (and Mathé’s romantic interest). Mathé, being a dedicated reporter, however, abandons her to pursue the Vampires gang and finds himself in the aforementioned hot water.

It’s a fun short, with Napierkowska’s winged ballet visually stunning if somewhat tepid dramatically.



Written and directed by Louis Feuillade; director of photography, Manichoux; released by Gaumont.

Starring Édouard Mathé (Philippe Guérande), Jean Aymé (Dr. Nox), Stacia Napierkowska (Marfa Koutiloff) and Marcel Lévesque (Oscar Mazamette).

Pool Sharks (1915, Edwin Middleton)

According to Pool Sharks, the only thing better than getting the girl is getting a free bottle of liquor.

W.C. Fields is at a picnic and courting a young woman–apparently the only single woman there (the actor is sadly uncredited)–and he runs afoul her other suitor, played by Bud Ross.

Fields and Ross engage in food fighting and slapstick fighting before they end up competing in pool. During the pool game, Sharks becomes less a comedy and more an example of good process shots. The pool balls move spectacularly through stop motion.

Sadly, the pool game is also where Middleton and Fields decide to have Fields break the fourth wall to wink at the audience. It’s an ineffective choice and distracting.

While Fields is fine and often funny, the filmmaking overshadows him quite a bit. Even during the finale, it’s in too recent memory.

Still, Shark amuses.



Directed by Edwin Middleton; written by W.C. Fields; released by Mutual Film.

Starring W.C. Fields (The Pool Shark) and Bud Ross (His Rival).

The Vampires: The Severed Head (1915, Louis Feuillade)

I probably should have paid more attention to The Severed Head‘s title. Even when the discussion of a decapitated murder victim came up, the title didn’t register any significance.

Guess what? Director Feuillade gets in a severed head. I didn’t even think the murder case mattered, since most of the short concerns reporter Édouard Mathé visiting an old family friend–played by Jean Aymé–who is selling his home to a wealthy American (Rita Herlor).

Mentioning Feuillade has a severed head in the short doesn’t really give anything away. The big finale involves something else unexpected entirely.

Since there’s no real drama–for a while I thought it was about Mathé messing up Aymé’s home sale–all attention goes to Feuillade’s direction.

He’s competent, though he repeatedly gets establishing shots and emphasis shots backwards.

Feuillade’s more interested in his plot, which complicates itself throughout.

With that emphasis, Head mildly intrigues.

1/3Not Recommended


Written and directed by Louis Feuillade; director of photography, Manichoux; released by Gaumont.

Starring Édouard Mathé (Philippe Guérande), Jean Aymé (Dr. Nox), Rita Herlor (Mrs. Simpson), Marcel Lévesque (Oscar Mazamette) and Thelès (The Magistrate).

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