The Devil's Laboratory (1897)
Original title: Le cabinet de Méphistophélès
(Original) Le cabinet de Méphistophélès
(Alternative) The Cabinet of Mephistopheles
(Alternative) Faust's Laboratory
(Alternative) The Laboratory of Faust
Mephistopheles is the demon who appears in the Faust legend, but this film is only loosely based on it, sometimes considered a Faustian film other times not. Here Mephistoles disguises himself as an old man and waits on customers in his laboratory. As the customers prepare to leave, however, Mephistopheles mystifies them with various magical pranks and cavorts under several animal disguises, taunting them with a beautiful vanishing lady and trapping them briefly in a cage. One of the customers, noticing a sword on the wall, manages to cut Mephistopheles's head off, but it remains alive and eventually reattaches itself to its body. Finally, to the great relief of the customers, Mephistopheles himself ends up trapped in his own cage.
The picture shows the Devil working at a fire. Two cavaliers appear, and the Devil takes the form of a seer, old, bent and wrinkled. Then he disappears in a cloud of smoke, to reappear shortly as a ghost, whose head comes off and floats around the room. Suddenly the table gets up of itself, and flies up the chimney. All sorts of wonderful things happen. A cannon takes the place occupied by the table, and belches forth flame and smoke. A large cage appears mysteriously in the center of the room, through the bars of which the Devil passes as if it were an open door. By his magic, he makes the cavalier pass through the bars in the same wonderful fashion. Everything is so weird and fantastic, that such a small trifle as a man turning into a donkey excites but passing notice.
Source: Edison Catalog
Of all the mystical illusion, this is one of the few that is really superb. The picture first opens with Satan in the foreground, apparently lost in thought as to what he should do next. Suddenly he stretches forth his hand as though to call forth the imps at his command when he immediately changes his form to that of a decrepit old man. He walks behind the counter conveniently placed near the wall and proceeds to wait out two customers who have entered meanwhile. After they imbibe they turn to go out, when a beautiful lady is seen sitting in a chair near the door. As one of the party stoops to kiss her hand she is transformed and Satan sits in her place. He causes a large cage to appears and its guests are now seen inside behind the bars. They are suddenly released and Satan transforms himself into a monkey, from that to a pig and from that to a donkey. He changes again to that of the old man when one of the characters draws a sword and chops his head off. The body disappears, but the head remains for some minutes on the counter when it joins the body again and Satan appears in his true form. After considerable amusement, he is himself behind the bars in the cage and remaining there, much to the comfort and peace of mind of those he has tortured.
Source: Lubin Catalog