The film FURY OF THE DEMON was released with Melies name listed as the creator, but many think it was actually a forgery crafted by one of Melies’ pupils, a gent obsessed with magic and the occult named Sicarious. Regardless, in 1897 the short screened once and reportedly caused the audience to go absolutely insane. The film then went missing.
Fast forward to 1939. Tod Browning (the guy who made FREAKS and DRACULA), released a feature called MIRACLES FOR SALE. When the film screened in New York City, FURY OF DEMON played before hand. Supposedly, the screening of the short caused the audience to erupt in mass-hysteria. People ripped their hair out and fought fellow audience members. It was a bloody, vicious scene. Eventually, a fire broke out, and six people died in the inflamed theater. The documentary even interviews some of the audience members from the 1939 screening who recall the madness firsthand.
But the focal point of the documentary is a rather reclusive rare film collector named Edgar Allen Wallace who supposedly found a copy of the film print and screened it in 2012 for a very small group of French film scholars and critics. And once again, violence broke out, and then the film went missing. The documentary examines this recent screening, as well as giving a close examination of Melies’ life, work, his mysterious pupil Sicarious, and also the power of film.
So could a film possibly drive people mad? We’ve all seen films push people to do a lot of unusual things. The original THE EXORCIST screenings were met with frenzy and fainting. JAWS sparked a mass killing sharks and mass fear of water. Hell- look at the new GHOSTBUSTERS film and the fury and hatred it has caused online. Film does hold a certain power.
But could this lost silent film short actual cause an entire audience to go all EVENT HORIZON and start beating each other to death? Who knows. Watch the documentary and judge for yourself. It should be releasing in the USA shortly. Regardless, it makes for one absolutely amazing legend.