The Infernal Cauldron

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Le Chaudron infernal
Le Chaudron infernal.jpg
Frame from the film
Directed byGeorges Méliès
Produced byGeorges Méliès
Distributed byStar Film Company
Release date
Running time
36 meters/116 feet[1]
(1-2 minutes)

Le Chaudron infernal, released in Britain as The Infernal Cauldron and in the United States as The Infernal Caldron and the Phantasmal Vapors, is a 1903 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. It was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 499–500 in its catalogues.[2]


In a Renaissance chamber decorated with devilish faces and a warped coat of arms, a gleeful Satan throws three human victims into a cauldron, which spews out flames. The victims rise from the cauldron as nebulous ghosts, and then turn into fireballs. The fireballs multiply and pursue Satan around the chamber. Finally Satan himself leaps into the infernal cauldron, which gives off a final burst of flame.


Méliès's pre-1903 films, especially the popular A Trip to the Moon,[3] were frequently pirated by American producers such as Siegmund Lubin. In order to combat the piracy, Méliès opened an American branch of his Star Film Company and began producing two negatives of each film he made: one for domestic markets, and one for foreign release.[4] To produce the two separate negatives, Méliès built a special camera that used two lenses and two reels of film simultaneously.[3]

In the 2000s, researchers at the French film company Lobster Films noticed that Méliès's two-lens system was in effect an unintentional, but fully functional, stereo film camera, and therefore that 3D versions of Méliès films could be made simply by combining the domestic and foreign prints of the film.[4] Serge Bromberg, the founder of Lobster Films, presented 3D versions of The Infernal Cauldron and another 1903 Méliès film, The Oracle of Delphi, at a January 2010 presentation at the Cinémathèque Française. According to the film critic Kristin Thompson, "the effect of 3D was delightful … the films as synchronized by Lobster looked exactly as if Méliès had designed them for 3D."[4] Bromberg screened both films again—as well as the 1906 Méliès film The Mysterious Retort, similarly prepared for 3D—at a September 2011 presentation at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[3]


  1. ^ Hammond, Paul (1974). Marvellous Méliès. London: Gordon Fraser. p. 142. ISBN 0900406380.
  2. ^ Malthête, Jacques; Mannoni, Laurent (2008). L'oeuvre de Georges Méliès. Paris: Éditions de La Martinière. p. 346. ISBN 9782732437323.
  3. ^ a b c "A Journey Through Silent Film's Time, Color and Space". Flicker Alley. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Thompson, Kristin; Bordwell, David (10 January 2010). "Paris fun, in at least three dimensions". David Bordwell's Website on Cinema. Retrieved 7 January 2014.

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