So, while I was doing research for our latest post in Through The Shattered Lens Presents The Oscars, I came across a short film from 1918, The Ghost of Slumber Mountain.
Directed by special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien (who would later do the special effects for the original King Kong), The Ghost of Slumber Mountain tells the story of an explorer and writer named Holmes (Herbert M. Dawley). When his nephews ask him to tell them a story, Holmes tells them about the time that he explored Slumber Mountain and met the ghost a prospector named Mad Dick (played by O’Brien himself). The ghost instructs Holmes to look through a telescope. Upon doing so, Holmes finds himself starting into prehistoric times. He not only sees a fight between a Tyrannosaurus and a Triceratops but then apparently gets sent though time himself as he soon finds himself being chased by the surviving dinosaur.
Now, there are a few things that I should make clear about The Ghost of Slumber Mountain. It’s a silent film, which means that watching it requires modern audiences to adapt to a far different narrative experience than they may be used to. As well, the film originally ran 30 minute but the current print clocks in at 19 minutes. As a result, most of the film’s non-dinosaur plot is unknown.
With all that in mind, The Ghost of Slumber Mountain is still a fascinating and fun slice of cinematic history. This was the first film to show live actors and stop-motion creatures together on the screen. And while the special effects are primitive when compared to today’s CGI monsters, there’s also an undeniable charm to them.
Today, of course, we tend to take special effects for granted. One of the great things about watching a movie like The Ghost of Slumber Mountain is that it gives you a chance to travel back to a time when special effects truly were special and unexpected. There was once a time when film magic truly did seem to be like magic and sometimes, it’s fun to hop into a cinematic time machine and try to imagine being in that 1918 audience and being truly amazed by what we are seeing.
So, why not hop into that time machine and watch The Ghost of Slumber Mountain?