A comedy trick film from the makers of Rescued by Rover.
Lewin Fitzhamon (1869-1961) was producer Cecil Hepworth’s favorite director until “Fitz” broke away to form his own film company in 1912. Like many early film-makers, they played a lot with “trick films,” ever fascinated by the technical possibilities of the medium, not yet encumbered by the narrative demands of longer length feature films. (The first full-length feature was Australia’s 1906 production The Story of the Kelly Gang, which exists today only in fragments, but features did not dominate the film world until their gradual takeover between 1912 and 1915.)
In That Fatal Sneeze an older man plays a trick on a young boy by pouring prodigious amounts of pepper into his food, thus causing him to sneeze violently. The boy gets revenge likewise on the older man, who proceeds to sneeze his way through the rest of the film, each time sneezing more and more violently, until in the end he sneezes himself into oblivion, going up in a puff of smoke. The comedy derives from the hyperbole of depicting each sneeze growing in magnitude to the point where surrounding objects are flying and the camera is rolling out of control. It is still a clever film today, so preposterous that it has the mythic quality of a tall tale.