The Haunted Castle 1897

Director: George Albert Smith

Alas, the deepest recesses of the Manor's cinematic vaults house many an empty shelf as time and neglect take their toll. We can sadly only imagine what might have been when a pioneer film maker introduced the supernatural to Great Britain's fledgling film industry...

This short film concerns, according to available sources, an inn run by ghosts and features Smith's wife Laura in it's cast. Apparently an imitation of Georges Méliès' trick films, it was produced by former stage magician and British cinema pioneer George Albert Smith in his studio in the Pump House at St Ann's Well pleasure gardens in Hove.

The Haunted Castle is notable in that it appears to be the first film with a supernatural theme to be produced in Britain. Smith, who also worked as a portrait photographer, was one of the first Brits to engineer his own movie camera and build his own studio facilities, also pioneering a two-colour film process, 'Kinemacolour', which was patented in 1906. Smith produced films that were technically advanced for their time, using some sophisticated editing techniques along with innovations such as superimposition, close-ups, dissolves and wipes.

You can infer similarities with the work of Méliès, and in fact the French film maker's earlier short Le Manoir Du Diable was also known as The Haunted Castle when first exhibited in Britain. Smith was known to have corresponded with Méliès around this time, which would suggest that this film is more likely to be the result of an exchange of ideas, and not just plagiarism of Méliès' similar work. The two men later collaborated on the filming of The Coronation of King Edward VII (1902), when Méliès was commissioned to recreate the events inside Westminster Abbey where cameras were not given access. The king was played by a waiter.

Subsequent fantasy subjects produced by Smith include The X-Ray Fiend (1897), Photographing A Ghost (1898), Santa Claus (1899) and Faust And Mephistopheles (1898).

Cast and Credits:
Cast includes Laura Bayley
Writer/Producer/Cinematographer: G.A. Smith
GAS Films, Brighton, GB
Running Time 1 min.

Not available commercially. Possibly lost.

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