Watch the 1907’s Nightmare-Inducing Short Film The Dancing Pig, Now Fully Colorized

One could argue that cin­e­ma audi­ences in the 1900s were less sophis­ti­cat­ed than they are today. Mar­shal­ing the evi­dence, one might make an Exhib­it A of Le Cochon Danseur (The Danc­ing Pig), a Pathé-pro­duced silent short that show­cas­es the fig­ure of the title. “Appar­ent­ly based on a Vaude­ville act,” writes the Inde­pen­dent’s Clarisse Loughrey, “it sees a pig dressed in a fan­cy tuxe­do attempt to seduce a young lady, who in turn rips off his clothes and forces him to dance despite his shame­ful naked­ness.”

Just how deeply the orig­i­nal French audi­ences thrilled to these pro­ceed­ings is lost to his­to­ry; but then, so is the name of the film’s direc­tor. This aura of mys­tery made Le Cochon Danseur an object of fas­ci­na­tion a cen­tu­ry after its release. But that was­n’t the only fac­tor in play: the design of the pig cos­tume remains impres­sive today, let alone when con­sid­ered by the pre­sumed stan­dards of 1907.

The film­mak­ers must have known this, since the film’s end­ing cuts — in a time when edit­ing of any kind was a rar­i­ty in the cin­e­ma — to a close-up of the over­sized porcine head express­ing a well-artic­u­lat­ed look of sat­is­fac­tion.

We see the pig “flap­ping his ears, bog­gling his eyes, flail­ing his tongue, and chuck­ling evil­ly, bear­ing his sharp, scary teeth,” as the Vil­lains Wiki puts it. “This implies that he pos­si­bly ate the woman and revealed him­self to be a hor­rid mon­ster.” It is this final sequence that has made the danc­ing pig “a pop­u­lar Inter­net meme vil­lain” over the past decade and a half. You’ve almost cer­tain­ly spot­ted him once or twice, though prob­a­bly not the col­orized ver­sion seen in the restored and enhanced video at the top of the post. The orig­i­nal black-and-white film, the inspi­ra­tion for so many memes and so many night­mares, appears just above.

“Some­how, I feel like I’m actu­al­ly look­ing at a hell­ish human-pig hybrid, not just a 20th-cen­tu­ry human in a 20th-cen­tu­ry ver­sion of a mas­cot suit,” writes cinephile Tris­tan Ettle­man in his own con­sid­er­a­tion of the pic­ture. Per­haps Le Cochon Danseur has proven even more com­pelling to us ful­ly con­nect­ed 21st-cen­tu­ry sophis­ti­cates than it did to its first view­ers. Or per­haps it sim­ply taps into a uni­ver­sal truth of exis­tence: to para­phrase a much-quot­ed obser­va­tion attrib­uted to Mar­garet Atwood, giant anthro­po­mor­phic pigs are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid giant anthro­po­mor­phic pigs will eat them.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The Amaz­ing 1912 Ani­ma­tion of Stop-Motion Pio­neer Ladis­las Stare­vich, Star­ring Dead Bugs

Watch The Insects’ Christ­mas from 1913: A Stop Motion Film Star­ring a Cast of Dead Bugs

The First Sur­re­al­ist Film The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man, Brought to You By Ger­maine Dulac & Antonin Artaud (1928)

Footage of the Last Known Tas­man­ian Tiger Restored in Col­or (1933)

When Sal­vador Dalí Viewed Joseph Cornell’s Sur­re­al­ist Film, Became Enraged & Shout­ed: “He Stole It from My Sub­con­scious!” (1936)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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