Program Notes for Georges Melies: Impossible Voyager

Last night’s Sprocket Society show at the Northwest Film ForumGeorges Méliès: Impossible Voyager — went really well, and we packed the house. Thanks to everyone who came (especially the young ‘uns). I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Unfortunately it was so well attended, we ran out of program booklets (sorry again, folks). So for those of who missed out, or are just interested passers-by, you can download a PDF of the full program notes (1.9mb – link updated) here or at the Sprocket Society site.

Thanks again to Climax Golden Twins for contributing their excellent live mix of 78s, to Dave Shepard at Film Preservation Associates for permission to read his translation of Méliès’ original narration for The Impossible Voyage, and to Mike Whybark for the loan of his vintage tux and tails.

Oh, one note of clarification in case anyone was wondering. One of the local papers said we were to play a recording of Méliès himself reading the narration. While this would have been wonderful, it was not the case and I’m not quite sure how the misunderstanding came about since it was not in the press release. I guess I wasn’t quite emphatic enough about the live performance aspect. Ah well.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no recordings of Méliès reading or performing any of his many narrations for his films. In the case of The Impossible Voyage in particular, Dave Shepard worked with a number of scholars from around the world to assemble and translate the narration from surviving texts. (I made a few minor edits of my own to smooth some phrasings.) When I spoke (briefly) with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films about this general topic while at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival last summer, he made no mention of any such recordings of Méliès but did say that the Cinémathèque Française had apparently published some as a book or booklet some years past.

Much more than this I don’t know. So I reckon I should poke around and see what I can learn about it, wot?

Special Georges Melies Film Program on May 15, 2008 at Northwest Film Forum

Poster for 'Georges Melies: Impossible Voyager' - May 15, 2008 at the Northwest Film Forum

Announcing a very special event co-presented by The Sprocket Society and the Northwest Film Forum

Special effects epics from 1901-1912

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 8:00 PMOne show only!

At the Northwest Film Forum — 1515 12th Avenue (on Capital Hill at Pike)
(206) 329-2629

$8.50 general admission / $5 NWFF members / $6 kids under 12 & seniors
Advance tickets available online via

A special celebration of the mad filmic genius of Georges Méliès, the father of special effects, featuring rare 16mm film prints of his greatest sci-fi, fantasy and adventure epics…all presented with unusual musical accompaniment!


A rare presentation of The Impossible Voyage (1904) with a live performance of the original narration penned by Méliès himself plus music provided by Climax Golden Twins playing 78 rpm records on actual Victrolas, right there in the theater!


Six more great films, all presented with non-traditional musical recordings including free jazz by the Hal Russell NRG Ensemble, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, The Residents (in a special remix by Scott Colburn), demented Dada scat-jazz by Fred Lane, and more! Featuring…

  • A Trip to the Moon (1901) — rare extended version!
  • The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903) — rare “complete” version!
  • The Palace of Arabian Nights (1905) — stunning acrobatic sets!
  • Paris to Monte Carlo (1905) — with hand-colored scenes!
  • The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906) — beautifully tinted!
  • Conquest of the Pole (1912) — his last masterpiece in a (kinda) rare French version!

Learn more and see a bunch of photos, including rare behind-the-scenes shots and production drawings, at the Sprocket Society web site. You can also download the official press release (PDF, 112kb).

Hope to see you there… A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

(Poster design by Brian Alter.)

(This program is not affiliated with Flicker Alley, though I encourage you to check out their new Méliès DVD box set!)