Le Diable Noir (a.k.a., The Black Imp, 1905): Video
This 1905 effort from George Melies may not be as famous as A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902), but LA DIABLE NOIR (or THE BLACK IMP) is a perfect distillation of the the silent movie magicians craft and art. The movie tells the simple story of a customer in a hotel room bedeviled by the titular character. (I actually prefer the term “imp” because of the impish pranks that ensue). An amazing series of gags are squeezed into the short running time – I refuse to call them “effects” because the actions really are a series of slapstick sight-gags that build in the manner of a great silent comedy. Filmed from a single camera angle, THE BLACK IMP at first seems dated in its technique, but ultimately the unblinking and unmoving camera becomes a plus rather than a negative, watching as the action unfolds in real time, without a (visible) cut to telegraph to the viewer (however subliminally) that some kind of set-up has been prepared to realize the next magical illusion.
In short, this is four minutes of whimsical fun that should bemuse anyone with a Sense of Wonder.