Archive for The Three Ages

The Sunday Intertitle: The Kind That Has A Club That Belongs To Him

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 28, 2019 by dcairns

I got curious about Lonesome Luke, Harold Lloyd’s pre-glasses character (I’m *still* curious about Willie Work, his OTHER pre-G.C.).

Turns out that Lloyd, like Chaplin (HIS PREHISTORIC PAST), Keaton (THE THREE AGES) and Laurel & Hardy (THUNDERING FLEAS FLYING ELEPHANTS) had a Stone Age jaunt, via dream sequence in this case.

As it’s directed by Hal Roach, it gets bogged down pretty quickly. A bunch of characters in pelts pelt each other with clubs. One becomes conscious of the potential for confusion in a society where a blow on the head can be part of a mating ritual OR an act of aggression. It would be pretty easy to misread the signals, especially when suffering blunt force trauma to the brain.

This whole caveman bit is people hitting each other with clubs. It makes the average Punch and Judy show look like À la recherche du temps perdu. They don’t even vary it by having a woman heft a bludgeon. Matriarchal society my ass. It would be fair to say that Stone Age comedy gets old fast.

The anarchic brutality of the framing story is quite a bit more entertaining.

Hal Roach used to worry about the tran slation onf intertitles, something that was out of his hands. Here, we get, alternatively, “Officer 728 was like two rounds of fries,” and “Officer 728 couldn’t get a headline.” I don’t find the context any help, either.

Fascinating to see many of Harold’s familiar expressions and mannerisms emerge through a totally different character. Like Mr. Laurel, he can play someone different, but watching today we can’t help notice the similarities, because the same face muscles are being used.

Obviously, though — REALLY obviously — there’s no meaningful delineation between Lloyd/Luke and Snub Pollard as his chum. That’s going to need fixing.


Hairbreadth Harry

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2016 by dcairns


Click to enlarge — it’s worth it!

I’ve been greatly enjoying Dan Nadel’s Art Out of Time, Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969, a stupendous compilation of funnybook esoterica. Above we see an adventure of Hairbreadth Harry, a twenties newspaper strip. It’s nice to see that Winsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR was still remembered in 1924 (the nightmarishly expanding creature also recalls McCay’s Rarebit Fiend short THE PET). According to Rudi Blesh’s Buster Keaton biography, Gertie inspired the dinosaur scene in THE THREE AGES, with Keaton reasoning that animation and live-action could be combined in a way inspired by McCay’s short.

This got me thinking about that dinosaur again — I’ve often wondered who made it. A Google search brought me a sample of Mark F. Berry’s indispensible-sounding The Dinosaur Filmography, published the same year as Nadel’s book, in which Lou Bunin (he of the peculiar ALICE IN WONDERLAND) named the great Charley Bowers as the artist responsible. This would make a lot of sense — Willis H. O’Brien is the only other Hollywood stop-motion man I can think of from this period, but if it was him we would know, wouldn’t we? — and would be Big News — a Bowers-Keaton collaboration! I hope it’s true, but we may never know.

Here’s another bit of Maurice Ketten’s strip with another movie reference ~


The Mothering Sunday Intertitle

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2015 by dcairns


A gentle reminder that the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival will be raging this week in Bo’ness. Among the treats in store is Buster Keaton’s THE NAVIGATOR (screening Saturday), accompanied by maestro Neil Brand upon the piano forte. I hope to be on hand to experience and write about as much of the festivities as possible.

I rate THE NAVIGATOR pretty near the top — not as dazzling as SHERLOCK JNR or as plain great as THE GENERAL, but I like how Kathryn McGuire gets to be almost an equal partner in the slapstick. Her character is exactly as helpless as Buster’s, not more helpless in THE GENERAL (“almost aggressively stupid” was Richard Lester’s affectionate description of Marion Mack’s character) or simply competent and attractive as in THE CAMERAMAN.

I’m not going to try to arrange Keaton’s films in definitive order on a Sunday morning, but I would roughly say that the first rank, for me, contains ~


The middle group, which are not to be sneezed at, would be ~


And the “lesser films” — ones which are still likely to be better than anything else you might see, would be ~


I realize that this is both subjective and impertinent, and that any attempt to say that SEVEN CHANCES or STEAMBOAT BILL JNR is less than great is likely to look philistine. All I mean to say is that they are LESS great than my top four. But I welcome disputes, if you want to make the case for a lower-down title or knock down one of my pantheon. I will say that I’ve only seen BATTLING BUTLER and SPITE MARRIAGE once, and that it’s been a while since I saw THE CAMERAMAN and THE THREE AGES.

We might also attempt a larger project, a ranking of the short films