The Cheese Mites or, Lilliputians in a London Restaurant (1901)


Directed by Walter R. Booth, this short is a wonderful example of early special effects, specifically the use of superimpositions, where the “Lilliputians” are filmed on an over-sized table-top set and then appear on screen alongside the normal-sized diner. The film features the same type of trick film as seen in J. Stuart Blackton’s and Albert S. Smithtrick’s Princess Nicotine which was made in 1909, eight years after the The Cheese Mites. The producer of this example of early British cinema, Robert W. Paul (1869-1943), was an instrument maker who became involved in film when he was requested to build a copy of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, an early device for viewing films. As Edison’s invention was not patented in Britain, Paul went on to build his own version of it, as well as making his own films since Edison’s films were the only ones viewable on the machine. The Cheese Mites is the twenty-third film Paul was involved in, his earliest films having been made in 1895 and shown at The Empire of India Exhibition in London the same year. The following year, in 1896, Paul managed to build the “Theatrograph”, a device which enabled a film to be shown on a screen and so viewable by a larger audience. See also Paul and Booth teaming up on the excellent short Artistic Creation (1901).

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