The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912)    2 Stars


The Cameraman's Revenge (1912)
The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912)


Director: Wladyslaw Starewicz


Synopsis: A jilted husband takes his revenge by filming his wife and her lover and showing the result at the local cinema.






The fact that Wladyslaw Starewicz’s The Cameraman’s Revenge was made way back in 1912, when the cinema was still in its infancy, makes what would be a remarkable piece of work irrespective of when it was made, even more incredible. Apparently, the idea came to him while simulating a fight between two dead beetles for a nature film. It’s one of those outlandish, off-the-wall ideas that most people would probably shrug off as ridiculous almost as soon as it came to them, but Starewicz persevered and fashioned a clever, intricate and surreal (before the word was even invented) tale of infidelity and revenge in a world populated by bugs and insects who live in houses, ride bicycles, and go to the movies.

The story follows the exploits of a married insect couple, both of whom are conducting extra-marital relationships. Mr Beetle is seeing a grasshopper who dances at the Gay Dragonfly nightclub, while Mrs. Beetle is dallying with a bohemian artist. When he gets wind of her infidelity, Mr Beetle sees her lover off and gives her a good telling off. However, earlier that same night he had been forced to deal with another insect making a move on his illicit beau, and that chap just happened to be a cameraman who subsequently recorded a tryst between Mr Beetle and his inamorata through the keyhole of their hotel room. And later, he uses the film he recorded to get his revenge…

The endless hours of painstaking work that must have gone into the making of The Cameraman’s Revenge is really quite staggering. We marvel today at the work of Aardman, the makers of Wallace and Gromit, but they just have to work with pliable plasticine. Starewicz was working with dead insects. Imagine the delicacy of touch necessary to move each tiny mandible or antenna to the exact position required without breaking it. It’s tempting to imagine a box just out of view of the camera, full of dead bugs waiting their turn in front of the camera when the current ‘star’ loses a leg or breaks an antenna. Sadly, the story isn’t up to scratch, but it would be churlish to complain.

(Reviewed 8th April 2015)

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