23 June 2005 | Snow Leopard
Good (If Macabre) Special Effects For Its Time
For its day, this dramatization of Mary Stuart's execution has effective and believable special effects. The combination of the macabre subject matter and the brand-new visual trick must have produced quite a reaction from its audiences in 1895, given the accounts of how early movie audiences sometimes reacted even to much milder material.
The execution scene doesn't really have much that identifies the subject as Mary, Queen of Scots, and in fact some details would be at odds with a couple of the known historical facts about her death. But in itself, it is believable enough. It's certainly possible to tell that it uses a camera trick, but it was probably very effective in its time. The surviving print is rather blurry, but in this case it almost makes it seem more believable, by making some of the rough edges a little less obvious.
Special camera effects have now become so refined that it's hard to be as impressed with those done long ago. Yet even today, once you've seen enough computer-generated images, their seams start to show too, except for the very best of them. In its day, this would have come pretty close to setting the standard.