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The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918).

April 3, 2009

The Scoop:
This short film by the legendary Willis O’Brien (best known for creating the original King Kong) and his partner Herbert Dawley is one of the earliest examples of stop-motion animation on film.

The plot is simple — two young boys ask their Uncle Jack to tell them a story, and he weaves a yarn about meeting the ghost of an old hermit on a mountain trip, who gives him magical binoculars which let Jack see into the prehistoric past. The prehistoric scenes, featuring O’Brien’s stop-motion dinosaurs and birds, will probably seem crude by today’s standards (not to mention the standards of O’Brien’s later works), but still exude a certain charm. The seeds of O’Brien’s later, more famous, work can already be seen. And if you watch it with a certain sense of humor, the rest of the plot becomes bizarrely entertaining.

The project started life as a feature, but after the usual “creative differences” Dawley cut down the film to 18 minutes and removed O’Brien’s name. O’Brien would get the last laugh, though, by taking many of the concepts and models from “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” and using them for 1925’s “The Lost World,” his breakthrough film that launched his long, legendary career.

Best Line:
“I tried to convince Joe to take off his clothes and pose as a faun.”

Side Note:
Besides writing and producing the film together, O’Brien and Dawley also costar in it — O’Brien as “Mad Dick” the hermit, and Dawley as Uncle Jack.

Companion Viewing:
“The Lost World” (1925).

1,000 Misspent Hours.

Take a Look:
The full film:

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