Le Diable noir (The Black Imp) is a 1905 silent short film by Georges Méliès.
Méliès was a pioneer of the horror film, special effects and of cinema in general – his 1896 film The Haunted Castle is considered by many to be the first horror film.
Over the next few years, he would churn out dozens of short films, often with a fantastical and comedic edge to them, and Le Diable Noir is fairly typical of these movies.
Running just under four minutes, the film opens with the titular character entering a hotel room (a typically one-dimensional stage set that will be familiar to anyone who has seen other Méliès films), where he frolics with gay abandon before vanishing, just as the hotel guest is shown into the room.
This sober looking fellow is clearly looking forward to a good night’s sleep on the none-too-comfortable bed but soon finds that the furniture in the room is moving from place to place, shifted by an unseen force. As he tries to make sense of this, the impish devil becomes visible and torments the man as he chases it with a broom. Magically appearing and disappearing, the devil seems impossible to capture, and eventually sets the bed on fire. Naturally, the poor guest is blamed for this and thrown out, much to the devil’s delight.
This is slight stuff, obviously, but still entertaining on a basic level. As with much of Méliès’ work, it is shot from one static angle, giving it a theatrical feel. This lack of movement and short running time would make films like this essentially redundant within a few years.
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