Museu virtual do absinto, a bebida cercada de lendas e desgraças…
|Absinthe Movies from the Silent Film Era
NEW! The 4 Earliest Absinthe Movies 1899-1913 on DVD
producing films with an anti-alcohol message. As the much demonized focus of the
French temperance movement, absinthe was soon given a starring role as
After years of painstaking searching in libraries, archives and private collections in
Italy, France, Holland and the US, Oxygénée has tracked down many of these forgotten
relics from the dawn of the motion picture era – restored and digitally remastered, they
are now available here on a single DVD, in most cases for the first time since their
initial release nearly a century ago.
minute long, this is nonetheless the earliest known reference to absinthe in film, and is
included on the DVD
In the first decade of the 20th century a number of anti-alcohol films were released in
Bourgeois’ marvelously dramatic Les Victimes de l’alcool (1911), a groundbreaking film
in its day, and a huge commercial success. Until recently it was believed both these films
had been lost, but miraculously a single print of each has recently resurfaced, and both
films are included on the DVD.
On 7th January 1913, the Gem Motion Picture Company released a one reel film called
released in standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format, only a single imperfect 16mm print
survives today, and it’s from this unique copy (with Dutch subtitles) that this digital
version is derived. An advertising poster for the film is in the collection of the Library of
unique DVD, exclusively from The Virtual Absinthe Museum. The 1899 and 1902 films are primitive but fascinating relics from the dawn of the motion
picture era. The 1911 ‘Les Victimes de l’Alcool’ is a really major piece of film-making, and
the 1913 Gem production is apparently the only surviving US-made absinthe-related motion
picture from the pre-ban era.
This DVD is sold on the express basis that it for research or private study purposes, not
for broadcast or public viewing. Each of the four silent films are complete, and in overall
good condition considering their age. All four films have a time-code counter throughout,
as seen in the stills below. The total running time for the DVD is just under 45 minutes,
and it’s available in both PAL and NTSC format.
cognac, Chartreuse, whisky and other spirits.
authentic Belle Epoque
era absinthe antiques.
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NTSC version for USA
PAL version for Europe
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1911 “Les Victimes de l’Alcool”, showing
the gradual downfall of the hero.
|LA BONNE ABSINTHE – 1899
Produced by The Gaumont Film Company
Directed by Alice Guy
version of an absinthe being prepared and drunk. Directed by the pioneer female director Alice Guy it tells a short, comical
story: a man walks into a café, orders an absinthe, the waiter brings a bottle and adds a large dose to his glass, the man adds
water from a carafe in an absent minded way while reading his newspaper, not realising that he’s missing the glass entirely.
Without looking he takes a deep drink, and almost chokes on the undiluted alcohol. In a rage he starts attacking the waiter
with his cane. The waiter chases him away with a soda syphon, to the great amusement of the other onlookers.
picture industry and is now considered to be perhaps the first director of a fiction film.
Born Alice Guy, the youngest of four daughters of a Parisian businessman, she spent part of
her early childhood in Chile before being educated in Paris. Her father died when she was quite
young, and she learnt shorthand typing as a means to financial independence. In 1894 she met
Léon Gaumont and was taken on by him as a secretary for the still-photography company he
managed. The company soon went bankrupt but Gaumont bought the defunct operations
inventory and began his own company that soon became a major force in the fledgling motion
picture industry in France. Guy decided to join the new Gaumont Film Company, a decision
and/or overseeing more than 700 films. From 1897 to 1906, Alice Guy was Gaumont’s head of production and was the
world’s first filmmaker to systematically develop narrative filmmaking. In 1906, she made her first full length feature film
titled The Life of Christ, a big budget production for the time, which included 300 extras. That same year she also made the
film La Fee Printemps (The Spring Fairy), one of the first movies ever to be shot in color.
In 1906 however she married the Anglo-French Gaumont cameraman Herbert Blaché and went with him when he was sent in
1907 to manage the Gaumont office in New York. In 1910, having given birth to a daughter and keen to return to filmmaking,
Guy-Blaché (as she now became) founded her own production company, Solax, in association with George A. Magie. With
production facilities for their new company in Flushing, New York, her husband served as production manager as well as
cinematographer and Alice Guy-Blaché worked as the artistic director, directing many of its releases. Within two years they
had become so successful that they were able to invest more than $100,000 into new and technologically advanced
production facilities in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Alice Guy and her husband divorced several years later and with the decline of the East Coast film industry in favour of the
more hospitable and cost effective climate in Hollywood, their film partnership also ended.
Following her separation, and after Solax ceased production, Alice Guy-Blaché went to work for William Randolph Hearst’s
International Film Service. She returned to France in 1922 and although she never made another film, for the next 30 years
she gave lectures on film and wrote novels from film scripts, as well as several children’s books. After living in obscurity for
decades – her role in the development of the early French cinema was systematically ignored in many standard reference
works – she finally achieved some belated and long-overdue recognition in 1953 when the government of France awarded her
the Legion of Honor.
Alice Guy-Blaché never remarried and in 1964 she returned to the United States to stay with one of her daughters. She died –
completely forgotten by the motion picture industry – in a nursing home in New Jersey in 1968, aged 95. Not a single
newspaper carried her obituary.
|LES VICTIMES DE L’ALCOOLISME – 1902
Produced by Pathé
Directed by Ferdinand Zecca
and the newly formed Pathé company to exploit the burgeoning demand for anti-absinthe and anti-alcohol propaganda. Filmed
in 1901 and released the following year, it was not a commercial success – both because theatres with the necessary
projection apparatus were still a rarity, and because the film is relatively primitive in conception and execution.
few weeks were to last almost twenty years. The young man was Ferdinand Zecca. He was the second son of the concierge
of the Théâtre de l’Ambigu in Paris, and was making his living as a café entertainer. In 1899, Zecca and another artist,
Charlus, were performing a musical fantasia entitled Le Muet mélomane. At the request of Dufayel, owner of the Grands
Magasins Dufayel, they acted the piece before a camera. In April 1900, at the Paris Exposition Universelle, Charles Pathé, in a
hurry to install the pavilion allocated to him, gave the job to Zecca. He managed it so well that Pathé appointed him as
assistant to the director at his Vincennes factory. From then on until 1906, Zecca himself directed or supervised several
hundred Pathé films. The first of these are obvious copies or plagiarisms of English films, for example La loupe de
grand-mère or Rêve et réalité, both from 1901.
But Zecca was soon creating his own films.A la conquête de l’air (1901) showed a primitive aircraft, called Fend-l’air, flying
over the rooftops of Belleville. One of the first dramas, L’Histoire d’un crime (1901) was stylistically innovative in its use of
superimposition. With Zecca in charge, dozens of films were produced at Vincennes. These were not only comedies, trick
films or fairy tales, such as Les Sept châteaux du Diable, both 1901, and La Belle au bois dormant in 1902, but also social
dramas like Les Victimes de l’alcoolisme (1902), Au pays noir (1905) and reconstructed documentaries, the most famous
being La Catastrophe de la Martinique (1902). He also acted in many of his trick films. At the end of 1906, Zecca, assisted
by the Spaniard Segundo de Chomón’s photography and special effects, started filming in colour a second Vie et Passion de
N.S. Jésus Christ, in four parts and 38 scenes, 990 metres long, which he finished in 1907. This was probably his last work
as director. From then on he devoted himself exclusively to production and, eventually, to administration. In 1915, he left for
the United States to run the new company Pathé Exchange and in 1923, he became head of the Pathé Baby subsidiary.
Lasting just 3 minute and 39 seconds,Les Victimes de l’Alcoolisme follows the same broad format as temperance tracts such
as Histoire d’une Bouteille: the first scenes show contented family life, with the husband surrounded by an adoring wife
and happy children. He’s then led astray by disreputable friends, who give him the fatal first glass of alcohol. He’s shown
drinking in a bar with a sign saying “Absinthe 15 cents.” hanging on the neck of the in-house alambic. The next scene shows
his family now destitute and living in a bare garret – he arrives home and collapses in an alcoholic fit. As always with these
cautionary tales, the last scene is set in the asylum, where the poor soul succumbs to delirium tremens, and dies in great
This digital copy is made from the only surviving print which is unfortunately (but unsurprisingly for its age) in poor
|LES VICTIMES DE L’ALCOOL – 1911
Produced by Pathé
Directed by Gérard Bourgeois
motion picture industry in the first decade of the 20th century. While the earlier film is purely an historical curiosity, this 1911
remake is an accomplished work of art, and holds our attention from beginning to end. Filmed entirely in the Pathé studios, it
was a major undertaking, with a print more than a 1000m long, an exceptional length for the era (the film runs for 26 minutes
and 17 seconds). Enthusiastically promoted by the temperance movement, it was a huge success for Pathé.
scientist and sponsor of anti-alcohol legislation, Dr
Legrain. He enthusiastically reviewed the films as follows:
“C’est l’expression meme de la vie et de la vérité et, en
cette qualité, elle contribuera grandement à l’édification
du grand public sur la grave problème de l’alcoolisme
que vous nous aidez à combattre d’une façon très
pittoresque et très émouvante.” The journal of the Ligue Nationale contre l’Alcoolisme, L’
Etoile Bleue, informed its readers in June 1911:
“La Maison Pathé Frères vient d’éditer un film
documentaire et émouvant sous ce titre significatif Les
Victimes de l’alcool. Cette scène causera certainement
dans les milieux populaires une émotion considerable et
aidera dans une large mesure notre propaganda. (…)
Puissante leçon sociale Les Victimes de l’alcool sont en
outré un drame admirablement agencé, aux situations
poignantes, au dénouement tragique. La Maison Pathé
Frères a fait autour de ce film émouvant une publicité
considerable don’t nous aimons à croire que profitera
notre action. C’est en tous cas un devoir pour tous nos
amis d’aller voir et de faire voir Les Victimes de l’
alcool.” While the plot of the film follows the same outline as its
1902 predecessor, the story is fleshed out in far more
detail, and there are several important changes – most
significantly, the protagonist is a member of the petite
The leading man, Jacques Normand, gives a very fine performance, and at the end we feel genuine pity at his tragic
downfall. In his memoirs, written in 1923, he writes of the irony of performing the final delirium tremens scene having
drunk, as was his habit – and to the amazement of the film crew, nothing more than a few bottles of Vichy water!.
|ABSINTHE – 1913
Produced by the Gem Motion Picture Company
Starring Glen White and Sadie Weston
Sadie Weston (as Miss Weston). Although the film was released in standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format, only a single
imperfect 16mm print survives today, and it’s from this unique copy that this digital version is derived. An advertising poster
for the film is in the collection of the Library of Congress.
called Absinthe, a much more ambitious four reel version directed by Herbert Brenon and starring King Baggot. It played
nationwide to packed houses and turn-away crowds; many exhibitors upped the admission price from their usual 5 cents, to
ten. Filmed in Paris, it was purchased in 1916 by Baggot from Universal and re-released in 1917 in a five reel version with
added material pertinent to World War 1.
Unfortunately though no print of Universal’sAbsinthe has survived, leaving Gem’s earlier version as apparently the only
surviving US-made absinthe-related motion picture from the pre-ban era, and one of the very few contemporary
filmed versions of an absinthe being prepared and drunk. The film is complete, just under 12 minutes long, and in overall excellent condition considering its age.
NTSC version for USA
PAL version for Europe
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|The artist, Philips, meets a
|Philips falls in love
with the model.
|4 absinthes please!
|The Demon Drink
|Drinking with his friends.
|A month later they are
|Look at the ring.
|Prove to me that your love for
me is greater than your
addiction to absinthe.
|No? Then take your ring
|She’s worried about his
mental state, and goes to
|Drinking yet again
|Alone in his apartment, he’s lost in an absinthe reverie.
|Where is he?
|Asleep, he dreams of an
|No drunks wanted here!
|Confrontation and rejection…
|Expelled from the art
|Desperate for as drink….
|Rejected by former
|A furious struggle…
|He awakes. It was all a
dream. But he knows
what he must do…
|His fiance enters as he
empties his absinthe
|He stumbles distraught
into a church..
|Begs the Virgin for
|…and watch it float away.
That’s all folks!