In cinematography, a portmanteau film is when a movie combines two or more distinct films into one. It is a special kind of anthology film, featuring multiple stories that are usually connected by some sort of theme or common idea.
The term comes from the suitcase word “portmanteau,” which describes anything made up of two or more different things.
The term was popularized by Lewis Carroll in his 1871 book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
In the book, Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice how the nonsense word “slithy” is “a portmanteau — there’s slithy and lithe and slimy.”
Since then, people have been making up new words by combining old ones. And sometimes they even make movies out of those words!
What Is A Portmanteau Film?
A portmanteau film is a work of fiction that combines elements from two or more other properties.
Usually, these are existing works of fiction in the same medium — for example, a film made up of clips from other movies.
Portmanteau films are not to be confused with anthology films or series, which are made up of unconnected segments by different creators.
Portmanteau films are usually created by a single filmmaker and tell a single, cohesive story.
What Is A Portmanteau Film?
Portmanteau films are a type of anthology film. That is, they’re a series of short films combined into one feature-length package, rather than a single story told in three acts.
There are other types of anthology films besides portmanteau films — most notably the “directors’ cut” variety, where filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino round up a bunch of their buddies for an “all-star” film and a big payday, like Grindhouse or Four Rooms.
However, portmanteau films are usually more thematically linked than those types of all-star affairs. Usually there’s some kind of through line that connects the individual stories together.
For example, in The ABCs of Death, each director was assigned a letter of the alphabet that corresponded to a word for death.
They were then allowed to make whatever sort of film they wanted as long as it involved that death.
It’s not hard to see how this could result in something as scattershot and inconsistent as The ABCs of Death, but it also produced some truly memorable short films (Radu Jude’s “J is for Jesus Christ” and Ti West’s
A portmanteau film is a film that contains multiple genres, often in the form of three short stories. Portmanteau films are typically anthology films, with each story being self-contained and unified by a theme or subject.
The term “portmanteau” comes from the French word for suitcase, and implies that each story is packed together into one movie.
Some portmanteau films feature a single story broken into three parts; others are true anthology films, such as Twilight Zone: The Movie, Paris, je t’aime, and V/H/S.
Portmanteau films have been around since the silent era, as early shorts like Sherlock Jr. (1924) or The Phantom of the Opera (1925) were broken into smaller segments to serve as opening acts before a feature film.
Some feature length portmanteaus rose to prominence during the 1960s and 70s, including Kwaidan (1965), Spirits of the Dead (1968), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Dead of Night (1974), and Trilogy of Terror (1975).
Portmanteau films use the short story format to explore ideas in new ways. For example, Twilight Zone: The Movie uses its four shorts to
Characteristics Of Portmanteau Films
A portmanteau is a word or phrase formed by combining two words.
The idea behind portmanteau films is to combine two, or more stories with a common theme or subject matter into a single film.
Portmanteau films have been around since the 1960s and continue to be made today.
Characteristics Of Portmanteau Films:
1.Generally each segment is directed by a different director, so it has a different style, which adds to the charm of the anthology film.
2.Portmanteau films are generally shown at film festivals and not in commercial theaters.
3.The segments of the film are usually bound together by some unifying device like music, similar characters or even the same place in which the stories are set.
4.These films also tend to have an ironic twist at the end of each story as well as an ironic outcome for all of them together.
5.There may be animated sequences in between each live action segment for added effect and entertainment value.
Famous Examples Of Portmanteau Films
A portmanteau film is a film comprised of a series of smaller films, each with its own story, but all linked together in some way.
The first portmanteau film is generally considered to be the 1924 silent film Paris Qui Dort (The Crazy Ray), which featured four separate stories united by a single narrative thread.
However, the first sound portmanteau film was released just one year later, 1925’s The Joyless Street. This German drama was directed by G. W. Pabst and starred Greta Garbo and Asta Nielsen.
In Britain during the 1950s, there was something of a boom in this kind of filmmaking. The most famous example of that era is Ealing Studios’ Dead Of Night (1945).
Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer, it tells five ghost stories linked by a sixth story about a group of people talking about dreams at a country house party. It’s still regarded as one of the finest British horror films ever made.
Here’s a list of some of the most famous portmanteau films in cinema history:
1. Kwaidan (1964)
2. Dead of Night (1945)
3. Spirits of the Dead (1968)
4. Tales from the Crypt (1972)
5. Creepshow (1982)
6. The Tales of Hoffman (1951)
7. From Beyond the Grave (1974)
8. Chungking Express (1994)
9. Black Sabbath (1963)
10. Creepshow 2 (1987)
As this list shows, the horror genre tends to lend itself to being good fodder for portmanteau films. Creepy little stories stitched together into one cohesive scary whole.
What Is An Anthology Film?
An anthology film is a motion picture or television film that presents several different stories, which are often all based on one central theme.
The term is derived from the literary anthology, a collection of short stories by multiple authors. Anthology films have existed since the early years of cinema.
The first anthology films appeared in the early 1910s, and they were very popular during this time period.
The 1920s saw a rise in popularity of such films, with collections of works featuring famous actors and/or filmmakers appearing in each story. The 1940s also saw an upswing, with several notable films being released in this decade.
The 1950s and 1960s brought about a decline in popularity for these films, yet the 1970s ushered in a new era for the genre, as several well-known anthology films were released during this time period, including “Twilight Zone: The Movie” and “Fahrenheit 451.”
Today, despite the decline of anthology films seen since the 1970s, there still remain some major hits throughout history that have been part of successful anthology film franchises.
What Is A Portmanteau Film – Wrapping Up
As we’ve covered, a portmanteau is a series of separate works, bundled together for release.
The format is catching on with filmmakers, and not just for anthology-type projects like V/H/S or The ABCs Of Death.
Portmanteau films have a wide range of features in their formats: some are traditional stories with multiple segments and characters, while others are entirely different settings with similar elements.
What they all have in common is that they’re independently released; each story stands alone while still fitting into the overall package.
In the end, though, it would appear that one of the advantages provided by portmanteau films is that they require an almost intimate relationship between director and audience.
Many people enjoy all forms of film, and not everyone will agree on what makes a film good or bad.
As such, portmanteau films are a great way to put a personal spin on filmmaking.
But at the same time, it’s important to remember that there are also plenty of ways to make popular films that aren’t necessarily seen as being avant-garde in any way.
Of course, good filmmaking often comes down to personal tastes and preferences.
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