Movie 21min

The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906)

Original title: Les quatre cents farces du diable
Two travellers are tormented by Satan from inn to inn and eventually experience a buggy ride through the heavens courtesy of the Devil before he takes one of them down to Hell and roasts him on a spit.

+ 18 images
Director Georges Méliès
Country France
Language French
(Original) Les quatre cents farces du diable
(Alternative) The 400 Tricks of the Devil
(Alternative) Les 400 farces du diable
(Country Spesific) Die 400 Streiche des Teufels
(Country Spesific) Gli allegri inganni di Satana
(Alternative) Les Quat'cents farces du Diable
(Alternative) Les Facéties du Diable
(Alternative) Les Farces de Satan
(DVD, 2008) Flicker Alley
Based on Play Black and White Comedy Demons Fantasy Hell Horror Horse Pact with the Devil Satirical Seven Deadly Sins Short Silent Film The Devil Torture Trick Film

With the idea from the legend of Faust, and with elements borrowed from the two French plays "Les pilules du diable" (1839) and "Les quatre cents coups du diable" (1905), "The Merry Frolics of Satan" is about the inventor William Crackford and his assistant John. The two seek out the alchemist Alcofrisbas in his laboratory to buy a talisman. After an absurd session with a number of magical moving furniture, they tell Alcofrisbas that they have a desire to travel the world. The alchemist offers them to fulfill the wish, but they overlook that the price they have to pay is to surrender the soul to the devil. It should turn out that the alchemist is none other than Mephistopheles. The journey begins, and soon the two travelers are pursued by both Mephistopheles and the Seven Deadly Sins. Georges Méliès himself plays the role of the devil.

30 Scenes
The descriptions are from Melies 1905 Catalog.
The workshop of the Engineer
The engineer, William Crackford, is in his workshop surrounded by the models of innumerable inventions; automobiles, balloon-cars, submarines and locomotives. He is absorbed in seeking new means of rapid transit to break the record in a trip around the world. He is in the act of designing the model of a new machine which he firmly believes will enable him to attain the unheard-of speed of four hundred miles per hour.
The Messenger from Pluto
He is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a crafty personage who presents himself as the emissary of a celebrated alchemist who hopes that he may inveigle Crackford into purchasing a wonderful talisman where-by he may encircle the globe at any speed he may choose, for the alchemist has heard of Crackford as being “daft” over rapid transit. “Leave alone your ridiculous machines and follow me to my master.” Crackford allows himself to be tempted and follows with his servant John.
The Laboratory of Satan
Kaulsbach introduces the engineer and his servant into an extraordinary laboratory. They gaze in deep bewilderment at the weird objects which surround them. The emissary goes to seek his master, the renowned alchemist, whose power knows no limits.
The Bewitched Furniture
The engineer and his servant who are seated one upon a chair and the other upon a cask, begin to experience strange sensations. Crackford’s chair stretches out to an enormous height and bears him away to the cupola whilst the cask suddenly disappears beneath the floor. Suddenly everything in the laboratory becomes animated; enormous boots emerging from the wall strike unmercifully the hapless servant, and the hand with huge telescopes balance, and, suddenly lengthening out, overwhelm him. The two men begin to experience true fear. The alchemist enters and laughs at their fear. With a gesture he brings down from the ceiling Crackford who has been clinging desperately to his mighty chair, and having informed himself of their desires announces that he will gratify their wishes. Comical entry of laboratory boys; the alchemist brings a mortar in which he makes, with a fantastical mixture, the pills of enchantment.
The Imps at Work
The laboratory boys are no other than the seven cardinal sins. At the alchemist’s command, they pound in the mortar the philters, whilst Satan mumbles over some weird incantations.
The Pills’ of Enchantment
Satan, arming himself with a huge spoon, extracts from the mortar his magical composition, and transforms it into large pills. Crackford and John would like to touch them, to examine them, but the alchemist deters them from doing so. Satan seizes a pill, and in order to show their power he throws it upon the floor. The pill bursts, and in a cloud there appears a lovely fairy. Crackford, dazzled by her beauty, advances to kiss her hand, but she is changed into a monster, hideous to behold. Satan announces that, in throwing each pill to the ground, Crackford will be able to gratify any desire whatsoever. The latter, in his enthusiasm, would like to pay for the pills, but Satan declines to accept any fee, he merely asks for his signature. Crackford, believing that he has only signed a receipt, does not read the contents of the paper which has been presented to him, but, alas, he has sold his soul to the devil. Crackford and John go out, carrying their precious pills. The demon and the seven cardinal sins resume their true shapes, and Satan orders his imps to pursue unremittingly the rash Crackford who has delivered himself to him. Satan rejoices at his success.
The Power of the Pills Demonstrated
Crackford followed by John, returns to his home. All his family are seated at the table. Anxious to see the power of the pills, he throws one of them upon the floor to test them.
The Nested Trunks
The pill bursts and a trunk appears into view; from this trunk two servants leap out. The latter pull out from the first a second trunk, and from this new trunk there emerge two other servants. The manoeuvre is repeated rapidly so that in almost an instant the dining-room is full of servants and trunks. These servants pile the trunks around the room.
A Novel Packing-Up
Before Crackford and his family have time to stop it, the servants take down pictures and clocks, and in a twinkling all the furniture is piled into the trunks. The wife, her daughter, Crackford himself and his servant are likewise shut up with their furniture.
The Grand Trunk Railway
The servants line the trunks up one behind the other and presently a train appears. The first trunk becomes a locomotive, and one sees in the coaches through the windows, the engineer and his family comfortably installed. John is changed to an engineer and occupies the seat in the locomotive. The train whistles and departs. As soon as it has disappeared, Satan reappears. At his approach, the liveries of the servants vanish, and all resume their demoniacal forms. Satan, followed by his infernal servitors, returns to the lower regions.
The Ravine in the Alps
The train after an exceedingly rapid voyage arrives in the Alps, above a deep ravine through which flows a roaring torrent; a rustic bridge spans the gap of the valley.
The Wreck of the Grand Trunk Railway
The bridge is worm-eaten so that at the moment when the train reaches the centre, the beams fall with a crash and that part of the train carrying the Crackford family is hurled into the abyss. The locomotive and the car containing the Englishman have miraculously remained upon the bridge which has withstood the load.
Nothing Stops Them
John leaps down from the locomotive so as to aid his ill-fated employers, but Crackford is determined to continue his journey and not to be delayed by attempting to make a rescue. The locomotive and the single coach speed on their way.
The Hotel Courtyard
The train arrives in the middle of a village square where there are hosts of drinkers, wash-women, and tenders of geese, the train makes a sensational entry.
The Disembarking
The travelers come out of the train. The locomotive and the car become trunks again and are carried off by the porters. The inn-keeper overwhelms his new guests with exaggerated courtesy and shows them into the dining-room. Both are hungry. As soon as they enter, Satan, who appears in the role of innkeeper, resumes his form and brings out of a well demons to torment his victims. Henceforth they will never be able to eat during the entire voyage.
The Enchanted Dining-Room
We see our travelers enter the dining-room but there numerous surprises await them. They sit down at a table; the table vanishes through the wall; the guests go toward another table laden with food; the chairs fold up and disappear beneath the floor, the victuals vanish, and there follows a hurried pursuit, but the food flees before them; platters, plates, fruits, and cakes fall upside down. Two demons make their appearance and art in pursuit of Crackford and John.
The Demoniac Soirée in the Kitchen
Then they make their way into the kitchen. A large table is surrounded by cooks, servants, waiters, etc.-not a place vacant. Our famished travellers are refused access to the table. Suddenly some apes appear, overturn dishes, bottles, chairs, and every-body flees; the way is clear, so Crackford and John advance to obtain something to eat, for the tureen full of soup has remained upon the table. They relish the repast in advance, but they have not counted upon their persecutors being present. The fiends leap upon the table and crash the tureen down upon Crackford’s head. The tablecloth disappears under the table and the table itself soars away to the ceiling. When Crackford succeeds in ridding himself of his cumbersome coiffure, they are assailed by apes and demons who pursue them with energy and pommel them. The fiendish characters traverse walls, buffets, staircases, mantelpiece, etc., tumbling over every obstacle in their way while performing astonishing acrobatic feats. All these imps finally disappear beneath the floor, then our heroes are pursued by the scullions and pastry-cooks; the latter also drive Crackford and John away.
The Stage-Coach
Just as our heroes rush out of the kitchen, the two unfortunates behold in the square an empty stage-coach. The driver is asleep on his seat; John leaps upon him, throws him down from the vehicle, and whips up the horse so as to fly away from the village with his master who has climbed inside. They ask only to leave the accursed place, but Satan reappears through a cask in which he shuts up the driver who has not yet recovered from his surprise.
The “Skidoo” Horse
With a majestic wave of his hand, Satan transforms the living horse into a mythological monster. The coach becomes an extraordinary carriage composed of stars and comets. John lashes the horse with his whip, but it makes no attempt to move.
Satan’s Auto
At this moment, Satan reappearing in an automobile, bumps into the strange carriage with such a shock that he knocks over the “skidoo” horse so that its legs point up in the air and its head hangs down. The unfortunate beast lashes the air furiously with its legs and the grotesque vehicle starts on pushing the disabled horse which cannot right itself.
Mt. Vesuvius in Eruption
The equipage and the auto ascend the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius which unrolls itself gradually as the travelers advance, reaching the crater at the precise moment when an eruption is about to take place. The first explosion sends the astral carriage and its occupants whizzing into the clouds whilst the auto mobile of Satan goes rapidly down the crater to bear him to his abode.
The Fantastical Aerial Trip
After they have arrived among the clouds, the disabled horse has become righted upon its legs. The emaciated animal, animated by its contact with the infernal fire, starts on its way dragging the chariot through the clouds at a good rate of speed. The coachman John, while passing close to a star, seizes and lights his pipe with it; Crackford grabs a body in he shape of a crescent and bites into with hunger.
The Living Stars
Now begins a fascinating and comical procession of stars, meteors, comets, etc., which become animated as the chariot goes by. Saturn in his planet, appears successively. Then enormous living heads become visible in the heavens much to the delight and bewilderment of the voyagers. The speed of the carriage slackens, the horse stops, after some vigorous applications of the whip, the horse starts on again rather sulkily but not until it has given some very comical kicks; it springs forward at a rapid gait.
A Storm of Fire
Suddenly a violent storm bursts forth, tongues of fire fall promiscuously, sparks strike the faces of the travellers; Crackford opens his umbrella to protect himself; an enormous ball of fire, whirling around, darts flames into John’s face, as he lifts his hands to protect himself he lets fall the reins, and thereat the horse’s head drops down suddenly dragging the equipage after it.
A Break-Up in the Sky
A shock is felt, the carriage falls apart and descends through space. Now one sees the clouds rise with great speed while trunks, valises, horse and carriage tumble topsy turvy.
The Parachute, Return to Earth
John comes down to earth head first. Crackford is more fortunate, for the, by the aid of his opened umbrella, descends slowly.
Through Roofs and Floors
In a superb dining-room where several servants are busy setting a table, suddenly the ceiling breaks open in two places, and Crackford and John fall through; the latter, upon the table, breaking the dishes and the former upon the floor.
The Fatal Reckoning
Crackford gets up undismayed and thinks only of reviving himself. The cover is laid, and he will be able to eat at last. But just when he tastes the delicious flavor of the soup, the table suddenly opens and Satan comes out to the horror of the engineer. The demon shows him the contract which he has signed.
The Descent to the Inferno
In spite of his protestations, Crackford is seized by his legs and thrown into the earth head foremost. Satan accompanies his victim to Tartarus. One sees them descend into a bizarre country at the bottom of which flows a river of fire, the Styx. Demons come forth from every region to receive the new arrival.
Satan’s Turnspit
The demons bring an immense turnspit adjusted with a large wheel; Crackford is placed on the spit and roasted amid The Merry Frolics of Satan.
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Georges Méliès - Satan
Georges Méliès - Production Design
Georges Méliès - Producer
Victor Darlay - Author (Play)
Victor de Cottens - Author (Play)
Georges Méliès - Director
So Much Melies in one film

First and foremost I see this as a Melies Trick Film where he still gives the audience what they are there for - the usuals. There is also some clever usage of the tricks and effects that makes this a great and innovative film. Here Melies has combined his trickery into a longer film that takes on a journey around the world and into the depths of hell, giving us a great variation of scenes and environments. In many ways, this seems like an odé to his previous films with Mephistoles in the main role, giving him here the victory in the end together with his party of demons. All the variation, big cast, colors, and narrative is great, as the film seems more complete than the shorter ones, although it can be a bit boring at times. The coloring adds to the character of the movie and I'm happy to know that it was preserved like this.