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Humor among Thieves

Les Invisibles (The Invisible Thief)

Gaston Velle / Segundo de Chomón, Pathé-Frères, France, 1906

Reading Jules Verne's The Invisible Man, an alchemist gets an idea that literally blows his mind (1) (a truc effect accomplished by a combination of prosthetic head and superimposition). He thereupon invents a potion that turns him invisible (2), but as soon as he and his assistant leave the laboratory, a couple of thieves dressed as harlequins break in via a 180-degree reverse-angle shot that appears to ignore both spatial and temporal continuity (3,4): they emerge from an opening other than the one they entered and in reverse order. Discovering the power of the potion, they make off with a flask, intending to steal some new clothes and treat themselves to a free meal. On the city square, they magically turn off the lights and make an escape, just ahead of some pursuers, in a shadow-puppet chase in front of a painted-flat cityscape that becomes a moving diorama (5). For some reason, the alchemist and his assistant are arrested, but the magician effects a miraculous escape in which (by means of stop-action substitutions) two judges are turned into absurd dancing figures and the arresting officers are given silly heads. For the apotheosis finale (6), everyone is joined on stage by a giant walking pumpkin.

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