If there’s one thing I constantly talk about, [whether on here, or among friends] it’s the fact that when it comes to movies; I despise CGI – specifically, bad CGI. Movies like Blade where the blood at the end looked like jelly, making it impossible to take seriously. [see that terrible CGI here] Therefore, if possible, I much prefer it if practical effects are used – even if it looks bad, at least it was done without the use of a computer, or some kind of technology; which I like to think deserves points. The reason I bring this up [again] is because – like myself, you probably thought that graphic and violent horror movies are a somewhat newer creation, something that was probably developed in the 1970s and 1980s what with exploitation horror and those “video nasties“.. I mean, surely the fancily dressed people from Victorian times would be fleeing to the hills, with absolutely no interest in seeing such things as blood spray heavily across a room from a sliced up jugular.. right?
Apparently, we were wrong – because, would you believe me if I said that there was an older, French theater that specialized in just that: horrific and gruesome story telling.
Cleverly calling itself Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, was founded way back in 1897 by a man known as Oscar Méténier and was “designed” for those French theater goers who wanted something a little more.. violent than the typical viewer would care to watch. It was established in an Old Gothic Chapel, [coolest. thing. ever] where The Grand Guignol would put dark and gruesome showstoppers, many of which centered around unprovoked, and violent, killings! If this wasn’t enough, the reel [get it?] highlight of the show[s] was the moment that the killer would brutally and violently “dispatched their victim”.. The Grand Guignol made sure to spare no expense in making the act look as real as humanly possible. The crazy part is that all these “shows” at the Théâtre played over 100 years ago, but it’s special effects puts many modern horror films to shame! In fact, these special effects were often considered too realistic for some members of the audience, shown by the fact that vomiting and even fainting was relatively normal for these individuals. If you weren’t puking your guts out or passing out, you could also rent “special rooms” to watch the play from – in case you found yourself aroused, because apparently that happened from time to time.
Unfortunately, though expected, this theater of the macabre performed its final play in 1962, showing that it stayed open for 65 years! However, it went on to inspire some of the most gruesome horror films of the later 20th century, including the iconic Hammer Horror Films! Below, I’ve added a ton of screenshots from Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol ‘s glory days! so if you’ve read this far, I totally recommend checking out these vintage pictures!
As I said before, Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol has been closed down for a while now, but the fact that the effects were all practical makes me all the more excited, knowing this actually existed at a time- it’s truly something else, and deserves to be recognized; at least in the horror scene of today. If it were possible, I’d totally love to go back in time, and check the theater out – to get a feel for true terror. How do you feel about Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol? Is it the coolest thing you’ve seen all day? Or is it, based on the screenshots above, too gruesome for even the most hardened horror fan? Let me know your thoughts in a comment or two!
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