Archive for Die Lustigen Vagabunden

The Sunday Intertitle: Another Thin Man

Posted in FILM with tags , , on June 26, 2011 by dcairns

“Ah, there they are!”

In DIE LUSTIGEN VAGABUNDEN (1913), German comic Karl Valentin chases two tramps and is roundly humiliated by them. Humorous scrapes include Valentin bruising his coccyx on a see-saw, and impaling his collar on a spiked fence, which causes his tongue to protrude in an amusing parody of asphyxiation.

I am indebted to Damon Smith for news of Valentin’s existence, which had hitherto escaped me.

To be honest, I don’t find KV’s antics particularly funny, but they are intensely interesting, due largely to his grotesque appearance. A stick-thin, insectoid freak, Valentin got by with face-pulling and crude gesticulation rather than sophisticated material or physical aptitude, but his body and face are so impressively malformed and malleable, surprising and displeasing from every angle and equally repellant whether stationary or in motion, that he achieves a kind of negative star quality. And the guy knows exactly what he’s doing.

In DER NEUE SCHREIBTISCH (also 1913), Valentin is accompanied by a strange dwarf, the better to show off his skeletal frame. A burlesque of Death stands next to an erect baby. The effect is creepy, a bad dream viewed through the wrong end of a telescope.