The Sunday Intertitle: Slinky Spills It

William Wyler reported that, during his early days, shooting western two-reelers, he would lie awake at night thinking up new ways to shoot a man getting on and off a horse. So I was gratified to locate a copy, however ratty, of THE TWO-FISTER (1927), to get a sense of the master’s developing style during this period, and also to see if he really did expend that much imagination on mounting and dismounting.

He did! Leading man Edmund Cobb, playing a staunch Mounty, pulls that trick-riding gag of hanging to the side of his horse as it speeds along, then dropping his feet to the ground so that the force throws him into the air and thence into the saddle. So I guess that would count as an inventive bit of horseplay. He does it twice. He also dismounts and mounts in a more romantic scene by using a convenient fence. This is more impressive, in a way, as I’ve never seen it done.

We also see a bit of Wyler’s inventiveness in the punch-ups, partly filmed with a long lens so the camera must furiously pan as the antagonists dodge and weave. It makes the whole thing hectic, and anticipates the fast and furious boxing match Wyler would stage in THE SHAKEDOWN (1929).

The movie, written by movie serial specialist George Plympton (FLASH GORDON et al) is perfectly banal but perfectly satisfying. Wyler had fifteen shorts of this kind, plus five features, all released the same year. So he didn’t have a lot of time for grace notes. And the scripts were on the simplistic side, mostly. We do get a sympathetic Indian sidekick, a sort of proto-Tonto, if you will. And the ending is amusing.

Cobb has arrested the flight of the bad guy, stopping him at the border and administering the standard punitive drubbing. Then he commences the standard romantic clinch (not with the bad guy: there’s a girl along, Elsa Benham). The bad guy sees his chance and starts to sneak away, BUT! This is the image we fade out on ~

Don’t make any false moves while I’m making a move on Elsa.


2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Slinky Spills It”

  1. Ernie Kovacs did a bit about television westerns desperately seeking new ways to film the inevitable shootout. After a series of strange angles, including from underneath (the gunmen standing on a glass floor), we see, via primitive special effects, a huge round hole in the villain’s torso — and through it, Cowboy Kovacs in the distance triumphantly waving his hat.

    Meanwhile, around the 7 minute mark, Harold Lloyd has some similar moves…

  2. Reminds me of Claude Lelouch’s filming of the fights in Edith et Marcel where, after ripping off every shot in Raging Bull, he films the boxers from below through a glass floor.

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