This film is part of Free

The Indian Chief and the Seidlitz Powder

A witty warning that medicine is not to be messed with: mix the wrong dose of powders and your bellyache may blow up

Comedy 1901 2 mins


An inventive use of slow-motion filming helps hammer home the gag as an unconvincing 'Indian chief' hopes to dissolve some trapped wind with a popular brand of indigestion powder. Mixed incorrectly, this medicine was notorious for producing painful or dangerous side-effects - but in this film they are merely hilarious. The chief's stomach swells, allowing him to bounce around like a balloon before sadly bursting - with a jump cut and a puff of smoke.

Silent-era cameras were turned by hand. To create the slow-motion effect, the handle was turned too quickly (over-cranked) to increase the number of frames recorded per second. Played back at the same speed as the rest of the film, the sequence appears unnaturally slow.