Watch "The Over-Incubated Baby," a surreal short film from 1901

Thanks to the ever-delightful Public Domain Review, I've just discovered the 1901 short film The Over-Incubated Baby. In the minute-long movie, filmmaker Walter R. Booth uses the still-natal medium to play around with speculative fiction ideas about posthuman birthing. What happens if we can speed up our baby's development — and what happens when we overshoot that process?

Here's how describes the loose plot of the movie:

One of the most original of the trick films made by W.R. Booth and R.W. Paul in 1901, An Over-Incubated Baby, as its title suggests, is essentially a sick joke in which a man seeking to tamper with nature is faced with the consequences of his hubris (and over-fondness for delegating responsibility to a clearly incompetent assistant) as an innocent child is turned into a little old man. In classic mad-scientist fashion, the professor seems highly amused by the unexpected outcome, an emotion emphatically not shared by the child's distraught mother.

In terms of special effects, this is one of the less elaborate films made by Booth and Paul that year (compare and contrast with the far more sophisticated Artistic Creation, The Haunted Curiosity Shop and The Magic Sword), though the concept itself is so imaginative that it arguably didn't need any more than basic jump-cut transformations. The film consists of a single shot, with all the narrative ingredients laid out right from the start thanks to large signs in Professor Bakem's laboratory, and the film's title creating suspense by revealing well in advance that something will go disastrously wrong along the way.