Directed by Wladyslaw Starewicz
While I've been a lame, absentee landlord of a host for the Caravana de recuerdos Foreign Film Festival for much of the year, Tom from Wuthering Expectations was kind enough to overlook that and challenged me to watch The Cameraman's Revenge with him as part of the "movie challenge" portion of the festivitivies. Leave it to Tom, the only person audacious enough to challenge me to a watchalong all year, to select the best insect-acted silent film I've ever seen! Mest' kinematograficheskogo operatora, as it was originally called at the time of its 1912 release barring an unnoticed typo or two from me, is a stupendous 12-minute stop-action animation feature which takes that hoariest of silent movie clichés--infidelity among insects--and turns it into a gripping arthropod revenge fantasy. Mr. and Mrs. Beetle appear to have a perfect relationship at the outset. At least, that is what it seems until Mr. Beetle takes his hard, manly exoskeleton and his Russian beetle pheromones and swaggers over to the Gay Dragonfly night club to meet his sultry young dragonfly lover. Unfortunately for the two invertebrate lovebirds, an altercation between the beetle and a mysterious grasshopper will have grave consequences for the philandering husband; as the intertitle silently stresses, "Mr. Beetle should have guessed that the aggressive grasshopper was a movie cameraman." To say anything more about the plot would do a disservice to my many readers and to the even more numerous anonymous spammers who often pose as my readers, so I'll merely draw your attention to a few non-story highlights from Starewicz's cautionary tale: 1) the insect cabaret scene is to die for; 2) the sequence where the grasshopper films Mr. Beetle wooing his dragonfly lover through a keyhole at the HOTEL d'AMOUR offers up a nice visual commentary on how the beetle has stolen the keys to his mistress' heart while foreshadowing a later revelation in a movie theater in which we learn that "the projectionist is none other than the vengeful cameraman"; 3) the insect love scenes, the stunts involving various kind of insect mayhem and grasshopper bicycle riding, and even the showy set piece where an artist insect paints a canvas with his long arthropod arms are all top notch on the wow, giggle, and combined wow-giggle meters. A big high five to Tom for bringing this amusing and just generally delightful pre-Battleship Potemkin visual oddity to my grateful but undeserving attention.
Starewicz at work with "the talent"
Archive.org's link to the film (dug up by Tom)