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Charcuterie Mécanique, La

Entry updated 27 November 2023. Tagged: Film.

French silent film (1895; vt The Mechanical Butcher). Lumière Brothers. Written and directed by Louis Lumière. Cast unknown. 1 minute. Black and white.

This very short work is probably the first science fiction film ever made – though, as records from the early days of Cinema can be scanty or vague (for example, some sources put the release date as 1895/1896) and many films have been lost, this cannot be stated with absolute certainty.

A large rectangular two-lidded wooden box has "Charcuterie Mécanique craque a Marseille" printed on the near side; on its far side we can see a large wheel, part of an otherwise obscured Machine, and two funnels are attached. A live pig is then lowered into the left half of the box and the lid closed. An operator then turns the wheel, whilst another pours a liquid into the smaller funnel, presumably fuel or a coolant. As smoke or steam rises from the machinery, the right-hand lid is opened and a series of pork-based products – sausages, cured ham and so forth – are taken out and placed on a table. The film now ends.

It is clear that the method of slaughtering the pig, then promptly turning it into produce suitable for a butcher's display, is meant to be the result of Technology rather than Magic; and as such devices (see Automation) did not exist at the time, the film can be classed as sf.

A successful film will often have its imitators, and this was true from the very beginning of cinema: La Charcuterie Mécanique had at least four, including George Albert Smith's Making Sausages (1897; vt The End of All Things), which to twenty-first-century eyes is more lively than this remarkably dull work. [SP]


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