The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912)
The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912)

Genre: Short and Fantasy Running Time: 13 min.

Release Date: October 27th, 1912 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Wladyslaw Starewicz Actors: Wladyslaw Starewicz

 


 

M

r. and Mrs. Beetle have too calm of a home life. This causes Mr. Beetle to become restless and make frequent trips to the city. Thus begins the misadventures of one of cinema’s strangest yet most fascinating animations: the amazing puppet-like, stop-motion works of Wlaydslaw Starewicz, an entomologist who originally wanted to photograph stag beetles fighting. Of course, the creatures wouldn’t do it under hot lights and on command. And so Starewicz began experimentations with preserved insects themselves, which, as corpses, could be positioned to enact anything he could imagine.

As the narrative continues, Mr. Beetle proceeds to the “Gay Dragonfly” nightclub, where the patrons seem to get him. A frog dancer and an elegant dragonfly performer are of particular interest to the thrill-seeking bug. As Mr. Beetle makes his moves on the dragonfly, an aggressive, jealous grasshopper onlooker plots his revenge. And, though Mr. Beetle should have guessed it (but how?), the grasshopper is a movie cameraman, who anticipates the hotel to which the couple absconds, and sets up his camera outside the room of the Hotel d’Amour for what looks to be blackmail. In an utterly hilarious twist, Mrs. Beetle is also restless, but finds companionship comforts with her friend, an artist.

Slapstick abounds and Robert Israel’s festive music creates a lighthearted, comical affair, which nicely contrasts the weirdness of utilizing real insect bodies. It’s more like taxidermy animation than claymation. And who would have ever guessed that beetles are so prone to infidelity? An inevitable confrontation occurs at the close of this one-of-a-kind short, with the artist bug attempting to flee through the chimney, while Mrs. Beetle has a painting smashed over her head.

The movements are limited, but the participants are entirely convincing as individualistic entities in this fantasy world of personified bugs. And, perhaps more appealing than the unusualness of this cinematic oddity’s visuals is the story itself, which contains unguessable developments – including sudden changes of heart, violence, and the hilarity of the beetle couple winding up in prison for the commotion that their philandering causes. Rather than sticking to animal-related scenarios, Starewicz brilliantly uses his subjects as if they were humans, allowing the premise to ring truer (and appear more humorous) than if they were merely foraging for food or conducting insectoid routines.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10