A magical fight between Demon and Reason

Who will win the battle?
"The Mystic Swing", a Thomas Edison film

In The Mystic Swing, a short from 1900, Mephistopheles, one of the devil's assistants, is having a contest with a character that the Edison film catalog calls the Professor. The Professor gestures to show that the "Mystic Swing" has nothing above or below it, and then makes a young woman appear. The demon responds by making her disappear. Then - although it's hard to see in this old film - the Professor makes an older woman appear, and the demon vanishes her as well. Finally, the Professor conjures up a skeleton, which the demon cannot vanish, so the Professor vanishes it. Mephistopheles then bows to the superior skills of the Professor, who makes both women appear for a final curtain call.

The Mystic Swing (Silent Movie) 1900


Edwin Porter made this film for Thomas Edison in 1900, after the style of the French filmmaker and magician Georges Méliès. Many of these early "special effects" films imitated the style of stage magicians of the time, using trick photography to improve upon the magician's illusions. But the filmmakers couldn't help but have their actors act just like magicians, as if the rules of film were the same as the rules of the stage.

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