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The Treasures of Satan

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Wikipedia article

'Les Trsors de Satan', released in the United States as 'The Treasures of Satan' and in Britain as 'The Devil's Money Bags', is a 1902 French short silent film directed by Georges Mlis. It was released by Mlis's Star Film Company and is numbered 413414 in its catalogs.


In a room in a medieval castle, Satan examines six money bags, and then locks them in a large chest. A blond man, creeping into the room on his hands and knees, jumps towards the table where he expects to find the money bags. Realizing the money is in the chest, he forces it open, but the lid slams down on his fingers. When he opens it again, the money bags are jumping and frolicking of their own accord. The man slams the lid down and sits on it, but he falls off when six young women in devilish outfits emerge one by one from the chest. They transform the money bags into spears and chase the man around the room; when the man tries to take refuge in the chest, it magically changes position. The women disappear, but the chest itself comes to life before transforming into a demon and tormenting the man. Satan and the demon throw the man in the safe, and they and the women dance around it as fire and smoke issue from it. Finally, the safe explodes to reveal the original money bags, safe and sound.


Mlis appears in the film as the blond man. The set for the film, somewhat reminiscent of a Gustave Dor background, reveals Mlis's detailed knowledge of medieval architecture. Similar Dor-like medieval scenery can also be found in other Mlis films, such as 'The Astronomer's Dream' (1898) and 'The Tower of London' (1905). The key in the film was built on an unrealistically large scale to allow it to be seen clearly, a device similar to that of the insert in modern filmmaking. The film's special effects were created using stage machinery (to make the money bags dance), pyrotechnics, and substitution splices.

Because the film is silent and contains no intertitles, the details of its plot are difficult to decipher. In his book-length study of Mlis, John Frazer suggests that the film involves money belonging to Satan, and that the blond-wigged character played by Mlis is a thief.Frazer, p. 102. By contrast, a 1905 American catalog produced by the Star Film Company claims that the blond character is the miser who owns both the money bags and the castle where the film is set, and that Satan has secretly made his way into the castle to meddle with the money unexpectedly. However, the catalog also claims that there are seven bags of gold and seven demon women, a numbering not borne out by the film itself.

Themes and reception

The film is one of several Mlis works in which the character of Satan demonstrates what the film historian Richard Abel characterizes as "a playfully devilish power", allowing Mlis to subvert and satirize French social values with carnival-like abandon. Other Mlis films with similarly rebellious themes and Satanic characters include 'The Devil in a Convent', 'The Infernal Cauldron', and 'The Infernal Cake Walk'.


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