George Melies is fondly remembered by many as the creator of the science fiction film. The Missing Link highlights A la Conquete du Pole, a later release filled with examples of
Méliès' pioneering imagination.
The Missing Link Proudly Presents

A la Conquete du Pole (1912)A la Conquete du Pole (1912)

(Star Films.) 10 minutes. 2112 feet. BW. Silent. France.
Credits: Georges Méliès.
Cast: Fernande Albany, Georges Méliès, The Folies-Bergere.

Georges MeliesThe title Grandfather of Horror and the Monster Movie undoubtedly belongs to Georges Méliès. Born in 1861, he was soon introduced into the magical world of illusion by such luminaries as Robert-Houdin and later would own Houdin's theatre. His influences also came from "The Egyptian Hall" in London run by Maskelyne and Cooke who would perform spectacular illusions to satisfy the public appetite for mystery. In Paris during 1895, Melies was invited to a public showing of the Lumiere "Cinematographe". Melies offered to buy this astounding new invention that had so mesmerised him with moving images. When his offer was refused, Melies resolved to construct his own camera and began experimenting with the possibilities that film had to offer. In 1896 while filming "The Palace de l'Opera", the film momentarily jammed in Melies' camera and when the film was developed an omnibus had appeared in the frame and then suddenly turned into a hearse. This simple substitution effect would be used in the majority of his work including A LA CONQUETE DU POLE.

A La Conquete du Pole (1912)At his studio in Montreuil, Melies further developed trick effects including double exposure, stop motion photography, dissolves and fades all which have become staples of the industry. His masterpiece, La Voyage dans la Lune (1902), and now his most notorious film, is generally regarded as the first ever science fiction tale told on the cinema screen. Hundreds of short fantasy films followed, culminating in 1912 with A LA CONQUETE DU POLE (1912), a forerunner of King Kong that Melies as Professor Mabouloffunfortunately did not build upon the discoveries he had made and looks fairly antiquated in comparison with the massive strides that had been taken at this time in the film industry as a whole.

Professor Mabouloff, (Georges Méliès), addresses a meeting of scientists who are debating the best means to reach the North Pole. While others attempt the journey by a hot-air balloon and by automobile, Maboul and his fellow explorers are aboard his ingenious airship, traversing through the skies past signs of the zodiac. Real Media Video Clip They encounter the grinning face of Saturn that explodes, and the Big Dipper represented by the ladies of the Folies-Bergere. Making a landing amid the snowy wastes of the Arctic, the intrepid explorers encounter the Giant of the Snows, a complicated full scale marionette manipulated by a crew of The Folies-Bergere in A la Conquete du Pole (1912)stagehands. Bullets and rocks seem to have no effect on the beast that eats Professor Maboul. The crew blast at the creature with a cannon, causing it to regurgitate the Professor who makes a hasty retreat. Real Media Video Clip
The explorers manage to find the North Pole, but in their excitement while taking a ride on the magnetic pole they fall into the Giant's ravine. A rescue ship arrives and discovers that Maboul is the only explorer alive.

Georges Melies in A la Conquete du Pole (1912)Méliès made only three more films before his forced retirement, but due to a lack of business acumen he had sold most of his films outright and not rented them, therefore he received no ongoing income from his labours. During the Twenties, the theatre he owned and his studio were handed over to creditors and his remaining years were spent at a home for veterans of the film industry.
In 1935 he took part in only two of the many publicity films that he had planned, but his health was fading rapidly. Soon after making a radio broadcast in 1938 for a programme titled "The Magician of the Screen" he died.

Today, the makers of modern horror films are largely unaware of the great debt they owe to Georges Méliès, the pioneer of all that enchants us on the silver screen.

Méliès Filmography

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