» » Éruption volcanique à la Martinique (1902)

Short summary

This picture depicts the eruption of the volcano by which over 30,000 souls were hurled into eternity. The numerous explosions which took place during the eruption are plain to be seen. Thousands upon thousands of tons of molten lava, sand, rocks and steam are thrown high in the air and descend with crushing force upon the unfortunate inhabitants of the doomed city of St. Pierre. This is the worst calamity which occurred since a similar eruption by Mt. Vesuvius when Pompeii was destroyed.

A re-creation of the actual Mt Pelee eruption, using a model set.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Fawrindhga
    I wish there were some way to type my comment about this film in red, as the film itself is in entirely a red/orange glow.

    Surprisingly well done modelwork and effects, in this prehistoric short film about a mountain, poking up from behind a lagoon-side village, simmering slowly, for the first 25 or so seconds, before it explodes (well, pops, slightly) sending a small piece of debris into the city below. Liquid, supposed to be lava, begins pouring down the mountainside onto the city, before it, and the debris which landed earlier, set fire to both sides of the impressive-looking model city. But rather than just let the city burn out on its own, Méliès pumps in clouds of thick smoke, obscuring the entire scene. Nothing is visible in the black, except for thick, grey smoke pouring out of the model. When the fire then starts up, it illuminates what remains of the smoking model town, before it explodes, presumably killing all of the tiny inhabitants of this tiny little model village by the tiny little seaside, and, seemingly the film itself.
  • comment
    • Author: JoldGold
    It's maybe a given to say it in some circles, but for real: George Melies was the first genius of the cinema. While a lot of his movies obviously relied on magic - that was what he was first and foremost was a magician - he was also a complete and unapologetic fantasist and was so submerged in creating unique worlds that he changed the game for cinematic expression (before this there were some narrative story attempts, but mostly it was so in its infancy cinema was just about showing off 'hey, look what THIS can actually get - on FILM, in front of your EYES!' Melies was going for things more than that.

    He made many, many films, some lost to time forever (stupid nitrate and low-grade film stocks used for shoes post WW1), but the ones that remain outside of the one everyone's seen, Trip to the Moon, are more often than not landmarks. This short is simply a recreation of an eruption on the island of Martinique, so there's no story. But, actually, there is a story but in pure visual terms as the volcano gets hotter and smokier and finally erupts all over the place. It's the barest bones of set up and pay-off, but it's there screen writing students out there! I just love seeing how Melies has this set and the design of it, and how he doesn't need to move the camera. I watched this twice in a row if only to see how the smoke and lava might have been done. I have my theories, but it's enjoyable enough to see how it is without knowing how: it just IS this eruption, and you can buy into it or not. I did, and it's spectacular.
  • comment
    • Author: Helldor
    Éruption volcanique à la Martinique (1902)

    *** (out of 4)

    aka Eruption of Mount Pele

    The title pretty much tells you everything you need to know as we see a large village by a body of water that is about to come under fire as a volcano above it is about to erupt. Okay, I loved the first fifty-or-so seconds of this film but the final couple were a real letdown. We can start off with the positive and one such thing is the incredibly beautiful set that really caught me off guard. Melies was always one to make sure his lets looked incredible and this here might be one of his very best. At the bottom of the frame we had the water, then the village, then the mountain and finally at the top is where the volcano was. The village was so incredibly beautiful and well drawn-out that you couldn't help but feel some suspense wondering how the director was going to destroy it. We get all of this terrific build-up but sadly the film ends on a very weak spot. I won't ruin what actually happens but you can't help but feel somewhat letdown. Even with that said, it's funny to see the director doing a "disaster movie" a full decade before the Italians made their legendary pictures.
  • comment
    • Author: Felhalar
    If you read the reviews listed on this IMDb page for the Melies 1902 recreation of Mt Pelee's eruption, you will notice that of all five of them, only two of them refer to the correct movie--the hand-colored Melies film that is now available on YouTube. The other three reviewers, who have become increasingly negative about the film that they have seen, have actually seen a different, black and white movie made the same year. This is because Melies was not the only filmmaker to recreate the Pelee disaster; as a matter of fact, there were at least two other reconstructions of the eruption made the same year. One was made by Ferdinand Zecca, working for Charles Pathe in France; the other was filmed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company in three parts, using a barrel of beer exposed to sunlight for the eruption (which may be the 'sand' that is dumped on the set at the end of the black and white film).

    When Flicker Alley released their "Melies Encore" DVD supplement, they included what they thought was Melies's film, but was in fact that same black and white print that has been criticized for doing nothing but spewing smoke for almost the entire run-time. From what I'm guessing, the film they included on the set is actually Zecca's interpretation: Wikipedia not only states that his version was deliberately more realistic than Melies's, (hence the realistic set), it also notes that Zecca's version was often mistaken as this film. The black and white print could also possibly be the first installment of Edison's version ("Mount Pelee Smoking Before Eruption") because of all the smoke, but as far as I know this film does not survive.

    Now that we've cleared that up, I would like to comment on the actual Melies film. Surviving in a colored print with oranges and greens, it lasts roughly a minute and a half and includes some pretty convincing effects. Nowadays, the set may look quite lame (the set in the misidentified print is tons more realistic) but it's actually great for the time and was probably an attempt to fool audiences into thinking it was the real thing. As a whole, the smoke and fire effects are as good as could be hoped for and while not exactly convincing now, it is artistic on its own level. Yet another look into the work of this great director.
  • comment
    • Author: Berenn
    Melies creates a believable volcano and a harbor village. For two minutes, the volcano spews smoke. But nothing else happens. Perhaps a bit of lava might have been good. We have a still camera, a bit of moving water, and no plot. Perhaps Melies was ready to get into reporting or travelogue films. There are no human figures in this one, which is rare.
  • comment
    • Author: ladushka
    This is a pretty dull recreation of a volcanic eruption that killed thousands on the island of St. Pierre. It's a terrible tragedy but using 1902's special effects, it comes off as a bit lame and dull. I feel a bit bad saying this as Georges Méliès is one of my favorite film makers, but I am calling it like I see it.

    The film consists of a small set in which a miniature town and volcano are all you see. For most of the film, you just see a lot of smoke pouring out of the funnel. Then, at the end, it looks as if someone took a bag of sand and dumped it over the set. This should have looked better and is just not particularly interesting or well-staged.
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