Film Review: A Day’s Pleasure (1919)

Release Date: December 15th, 1919
Directed by: Charles Chaplin
Written by: Charles Chaplin
Music by: Charles Chaplin (in 1959 re-release as part of The Chaplin Revue)
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Marion Feducha, Bob Kelly, Jackie Coogan, Tom Wilson, Babe London, Henry Bergman, Loyal Underwood

Charles Chaplin Productions, First National Pictures, 25 Minutes

Review:

This wasn’t Charlie Chaplin’s greatest film and truth be told, critics were underwhelmed by it and thought of it as his least impressive.

Still, this was enjoyable if you’re a fan of Chaplin and the silent slapstick comedy style.

The story is about Chaplin, as his Tramp character, taking his family on an excursion. Most of the action takes place on a ferry but there are some other scenes like the beginning, which sees Chaplin having trouble starting his Ford and the finale that involves a traffic cop and some sticky, hot tar.

On the ferry we get gags that feature seasickness, as well as some physical comedy centered around the turbulent boat ride.

In the end, this is still amusing and lighthearted but it lacks that extra oomph that Chaplin’s films typically have. I think the setting detracted from the performance, however. But it’s still entertaining and a pretty quick watch at just twenty-five minutes.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Chaplin shorts, as well as the short films of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton.

Film Review: Captain Kidd’s Kids (1919)

Release Date: November 30th, 1919
Directed by: Hal Roach
Written by: Hal Roach
Cast: Harold Lloyd, Bebe Daniels, Snub Pollard

Rolin Films, 20 Minutes

Review:

“The Boy. His wedding day. Last night was the first, last and only chance of his whole life for the big “souse”. He is dreaming of green Giraffes with red-white – and blue legs.” – Title Card

A few months ago I watched and reviewed Young Mr. Jazz, which introduced me to the silent era work of Hal Roach and his great creative partnership with Harold Lloyd, the star of many of Roach’s early films.

This was a whimsical and enjoyable silent short and it had a bit of swashbuckling in it. Who doesn’t love swashbuckling?

Now between this and the other Roach/Lloyd collaboration that I reviewed, I like that one a bit better. The main reason, is because this has a good easy to follow narrative but the story itself feels unfocused or disjointed. The whole bit with the pirates doesn’t really come until the final third of the film and everything is just preparation for the trip that leads the Harold Lloyd character to the pirate ship.

And it isn’t that the first two-thirds aren’t good, the whole film is enjoyable. I was just expecting a straight up swashbuckling comedy in the early Hal Roach style and it was more or less like one of his more standard films without as ambitious of a premise.

Still, this is a funny film with solid physical comedy. Hal Roach was a master of the style and Harold Lloyd wasn’t quite Chaplin or Keaton but was still, deservedly, a top star of his day.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Hal Roach films from the silent era starring Harold Lloyd: Young Mr. Jazz, Just Dropped In, A Sammy In Siberia, Before Breakfast, etc.

Film Review: Shoulder Arms (1918)

Release Date: October 20th, 1918 (limited)
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin

Charles Chaplin Productions, First National Pictures, 45 Minutes, 36 Minutes (TCM print and DVD)

Review:

Shoulder Arms came out around the same time as A Dog’s Life, which I loved. Both films are early Charlie Chaplin works but also helped to bolster his growing popularity and lead to him being one of the most celebrated comedians of all-time.

This is Chaplin’s shortest feature film but it is also the first feature length picture that he directed. It was his most popular film commercially and critically up to its point of release in 1918.

The film has some solid material from the master of slapstick.

Charlie is at war and he hasn’t received any letters from home. However, one day he gets a package of some pretty stinky cheese, which he needs a gas mask to handle. After throwing it into a German trench, he captures thirteen enemy soldiers. He then spends some time wandering around behind the enemy lines disguised as a tree. The tree stuff is some of my favorite Chaplin material that I’ve seen. Most of the film ends up being a dream sequence.

Even though this is an early film in Chaplin’s long career, he was already a veteran at comedy and his shtick is just as effective here, as it has ever been.

The film is light, amusing and a quick watch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Chaplin’s early films for First National: A Dog’s Life, The BondSunnysideA Day’s PleasureThe KidThe Idle ClassPay Day and The Pilgrim.

 

Film Review: Krazy Kat – Bugologist (1916)

Release Date: March 14th, 1916
Written by: George Herriman
Based on: Krazy Kat by George Herriman

International Film Service, 3 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll teach thee bugology, Ignatzes.” – Krazy Kat

The character of Krazy Kat was conceived as a comic strip by George Herriman in 1913. He would go on to be featured in 231 films from 1916 to 1940. This is one of the first films to feature him and his friend, Ignatz Mouse.

It’s hard to really critique something like this as it is almost primitive animation. These films feel more like experiments within the style and certainly aren’t anywhere near as great as the animated shorts that would put Walt Disney and the Looney Tunes on the map, just over a decade later.

Still, without the Krazy Kat shorts, we may not have had Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, which would have completely altered the evolution of animation. Krazy Kat films kind of wedged the door open for other animated features to work their way into the public’s hearts during the earliest era of theater going.

Krazy Kat – Buglogist is very short but that wasn’t uncommon for 1916 where you could see a film that is longer than a television season and the next night, see something shorter than most movie trailers. In those early days, everything was experimental and certain rules weren’t yet established.

In this short, we see Krazy Kat try to teach Ignatz about bugs, which turns into him getting stung by a bee, right in his bum. It then goes off on a tangent about an elephant. It’s a short film with multiple personality disorder but ultimately, it shows that both friends are different yet need each other.

The drawings are pretty crude but I don’t think that the people behind this were as concerned about art quality, as they were about technical prowess and trail and error.

Since the film is so short, I’ve posted it in its entirety below.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other Krazy Kat films.

 

Film Review: Young Mr. Jazz (1919)

Release Date: April 20th, 1919
Directed by: Hal Roach
Cast: Harold Lloyd, ‘Snub’ Pollard. Bebe Daniels

Robin Films, 10 Minutes

Review:

Hal Roach may best be known as the producer of the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang (The Little Rascals) comedy film series. However, before all that, he directed some short silent comedies in the 1910s and 1920s. Young Mr. Jazz is probably one of the most well-known.

The film is quick and simple but it is really amusing. It is only ten minutes but it uses that time wisely and gives us a fun and energetic look at the popular culture of Roach’s era.

The plot sees a young couple running away from the girl’s father in their car. The car breaks down in front of a dance hall. The establishment is run by crooks, which leads to the couple trying to stay one step ahead of the girl’s father while also evading the criminal element in the club that is trying to swindle them for all that they have.

It’s a cute and fast paced movie. While it obviously feels dated, it’s 99 years-old, the humor still works and the picture is quite hilarious.

The film stars Harold Lloyd, who was a pretty prolific actor in these sort of films and a regular collaborator with Roach. Lloyd would also go on to direct and produce like Roach and he carved out a nice place as one of the comedic giants of his day, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

The collaborative efforts of Roach and Lloyd were pretty influential on comedy as a whole and they really helped set the stage for what would come after.

If you want to get into either the work of Roach or Lloyd, this is a good place to start and it is a short and sweet sample of what the two greats could do.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

Also known as: Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru (original Swedish title), You and I (US alternate title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1918 (Sweden)
Directed by: Victor Sjöström
Written by: Victor Sjöström, Sam Ask, Jóhann Sigurjónsson
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Edith Erastoff

Svenska Biografteatern AB, 136 Minutes (original), 110 Minutes (2013 restored version)

Review:

“Love makes one man good, another evil…” – Title Card

This is the oldest film available on FilmStruck’s streaming service, so I wanted to check it out.

This is a biopic produced in Sweden about the Icelandic outlaw Fjalla-Eyvindur, also known as Eyvindur of the Mountains or Eyvind of the Hills. In the film, we meet Kari and his wife to be, Halla. Some people suspect he is the outlaw Eyvind. A bailiff, jealous of Halla’s attraction to Kari, sets his sights on the criminal. Things escalate and Eyvind and Halla abandon their farm and retreat to the cold highlands. They have a child and are eventually accompanied by their friend, Arnes. Arnes, however, confesses his love to Halla but she doesn’t feel the same way, as she still loves Eyvind. Men arrive to finally confront Eyvind but fearing capture, Halla throws her baby off of a cliff. The outlaw and his wife escape into the harsh winter weather but find themselves in a cabin with no food. Halla eventually freezes to death in the snow and when Eyvind finds her, he holds her until he dies frozen by her side.

It’s a pretty depressing story but it does display the pure love that these two have for one another. Ultimately, despite his crooked past, Eyvind just wants to live in peace with his family.

For the time it was released, The Outlaw and His Wife was a massive epic. It featured nature and the wilderness in a way that had never been captured on film. The film truly is a landmark in cinematic history and it did wow audiences with its visuals. It is hard to deny its greatness within the context of what it is, when it was made and how it changed things in the evolution of motion pictures.

It’s not a super exciting movie, though. At least not by modern standards and I am a guy that does like old silent pictures. It’s not boring, by any means, but it is a pretty drawn out film with some slow moments.

Rating: 7/10

Film Serial Review: Les Vampires (1915)

Release Date: November 13th, 1915 (first chapter)
Directed by: Louis Feuillade
Written by: Louis Feuillade
Cast: Édouard Mathé, Musidora, Marcel Lévesque

Gaumont, 417 Minutes total (10 episodes)

Review:

Les Vampires took me a long time to get through. I had to watch it in increments, checking out each chapter over time. Each of which averages out to just over 40 minutes a piece.

While it was probably exciting and great in 1915, most of it is very slow and pretty uneventful. It could actually be easily edited down to a normal feature film length and be a more effective presentation.

Despite the title, the serial is not about vampires of a supernatural type. It is actually a long drawn out crime saga about a criminal gang in Paris that is called the Vampires. The story follows a journalist and his friend who try to uncover the secrets of this criminal group.

There are some weird characters and occurrences throughout this beefy tale and you can see that the style was very theatrical and kind of similar to what would come out of Germany a few years later with their expressionist style.

Being three minutes shy of a seven hour run time, in its entirety, Les Vampires is considered to be one of the longest films ever made. Most of the time the film uses isn’t vital, however.

In 1915, film was still an experiment and hadn’t really evolved into a standard format. In reality, this ten episode format plays more like a season of a modern television show.

Les Vampires spends a lot of its time experimenting with visual flair and is more of a theatrical art piece than a motion picture or a proper serial. The narrative is disjointed and honestly, it is pretty hard to follow even with its simplicity. The reason being is that so much time passes and you become so numbed by the experience that early details escape you. It’s a pretty surreal experience overall.

The serial is still cool to look at, as it shows where filmmaking was around 1915. While some critics consider it to be a masterpiece, I don’t. It’s barely enjoyable other than some cool visual flourishes and I found it difficult to get through. My spacing out the chapters may also account for some loss of plot detail, however.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: A Dog’s Life (1918)

Release Date: April 14th, 1918
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Music by: Charlie Chaplin (in 1957 released as part of The Chaplin Revue)
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Henry Bergman, Charles Reisner, Albert Austin, Tom Wilson, Bud Jamison

First National Pictures, 33 Minutes

Review:

A Dog’s Life is a pretty notable film in Charlie Chaplin’s long career. It was his first picture with First National, who would go on to distribute other Chaplin films, as well as a slew of others during the silent era before being absorbed by Warner Bros. in 1929. Also, this film features several of Chaplin’s regulars in various roles. And even though Chaplin was the star of the picture, he played second fiddle in the title behind “Scrappy”, a dog who was the actual hero of the story.

While this film is quite short, it is a quintessential Tramp movie. It focuses on that character, Chaplin’s most famous, and has some of his best gags.

The film, like most of the ones featuring the Tramp, is more a series of gags and funny scenarios strung together with a simple narrative. In this picture, the Tramp falls head over heels for a singer in a dance hall. He also has run-ins with the law and the staff at the dance hall that employs the apple of his eye. With the Tramp is his faithful dog Scrappy, who helps him avoid trouble and ultimately, helps the Tramp achieve a happy ending with his love.

The scene in the film where the Tramp hides the dog in his pants, only to have its tail stick out of his backside and wag, is one of my favorite Chaplin bits of all-time.

While I love most of Chaplin’s work, A Dog’s Life had me laughing pretty much from start to finish. And frankly, I love the short Chaplin pictures for their simplicity and ability to quickly get into the groove and maintain it.

A Dog’s Life ranks up there as one of the best Chaplin pictures for me. If you want a real treat, check out a compilation film called The Chaplin Revue, which features this and a few other shorts edited into a feature length presentation.

Rating: 7.25/10