The Sunday Intertitle: Zed Cards

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I really like Zigomar. Oh, I know he’s a bad guy, and a Fantomas knock-off, but being number two he has to try harder. He opens ZIGOMAR CONTRE NICK CARTER by delivering special explosive wood to his nemesis Inspector Paulin. One explosion (well, one red filter) later, the poor detective is bedbound and has to entrust his crime-smashing activities to celebrated pulp hero Carter. But Zigomar isn’t just going to sit back and let that happen, so he despatches his “Z Gang” to throw Carter down a stairwell and drop a piano on him. Yes, you read that right. Maybe the silent serial informs the cartoon more than silent comedy does?

The rapid-fire plot-counterplot narrative certainly resembles the blackout sketch structure of a typical Loony Tune.

This is the period when each room gets one camera angle and one only. Which makes it all the more obvious that the landing where Carter grans hold of the banister is exactly the same set as the landing above, i.e. they only built one landing. So when they cut back and forth between floors, it’s just the actors switching in a series of jump cuts, just as the earlier “explosion” was just a jump cut to a red-filtered shot.

And, a few scenes later, we discover Zigomar’s electric gambling den, where the flick of a switch makes all the playing cards shuffle out of sight and the furniture rearranges itself to create the impression of an innocent concert hall — and the trick is played by stop-motion, so that the serial has transmogrified into an almost literal cartoon.

I like the Dutch intertitles — the Cinema Eclair logo gives them the feel of magical playing cards.

Further evidence: the sixteen-ton rock slab.

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