The world of technology continues to evolve, and visual effects in films these days grow increasingly impressive. There is, however, a consistent debate over just how progressive special effects have become. Those who grew up with Star Wars: Episodes 4-6 find Star Wars: Episodes 1-3 disastrous examples of how tech-savviness can heighten the imagination and destroy realism. Audience members were in awe of the presentation of a totally invented universe in Avatar, yet found it difficult to emotionally connect to the giant, blue protagonists. Despite the obvious kudos that the SpFx wizards deserve, there is much to be said for the efficiency and simplicity of early film, where creativity had to make due without computer assistance. Colorization was done by painting each individual frame of a printed film. The magic of "disappearance" and "reappearance" was performed with stop-motion photography. Slow motion? Just crank the camera faster. Frenetic pace of the Keystone Cops? Crank slower.
And what about double exposure? Countless actors and actresses in early film took their turns playing dual roles in motion pictures, such as Norma Shearer, Buster Keaton, and-- of course-- Mary Pickford. Turns out, it wasn't too simple of a process after all. Mary had to endure the lengthy procedure during the filming of both Stella Maris, wherein she played both "Stella" and "Unity" (left) and Little Lord Fauntleroy, in which she played both mother "Dearest" and little "Cedric." Everything was "done by count," so Mary would have to perform a scene as one character, say her lines, then wait the appropriate number of seconds in which her other character was to respond, and then continue on. Speak, count, react, count, speak, etc. If she lost count, or if someone on the set caused a disturbance, she would have to start all over. It was excruciating! For example, DIDJA KNOW that it took a sum total of fifteen hours to film the sequence in Fauntleroy in which Mary, as both characters, had to kiss herself! Despite the arduous and irritating process, the result of splicing her two performances together was fascinating to audiences and remains very impressive to this day.
The cinematic translation followed the menacing theme of feminine deception in the poem and struck a chord with the public. Thus when Theda Bara was born, so too was her film's character-- the Vampire and Vamp-- immortalized.