Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Neighbors (1920)

In Neighbors, Buster Keaton wants to get married, but his trousers keep falling down.

This doesn’t really have a plot at all (Buster wants to marry the girl next door) but instead it’s almost non-stop slapstick action for the full 20 minutes (with a slight interlude for a madcap courtroom scene and a ramshackle wedding).

And also like I said, Buster’s trousers keep falling down.

The final sequence in this, where they’re running around stacked up on each others shoulders for no reason at all, is strangely absurd and kind of wonderful.

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Notes

1. I watched this on blu-ray again, but took the screenshots from this youtube version.

2. I quite liked this one but there’s a few two many blackface jokes for me to be completely comfortable recommending it.

3. By which I mean there’s blackface jokes.

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Film Information

Title: Neighbors
Directors: Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline
Year: 1920
Duration: 18 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Scarecrow (1920)

In The Scarecrow, Buster Keaton gets to play around with Luke the Dog one last time. Which is nice.

After the relative disappointment of Convict 13, The Scarecrow is a pretty triumphant return to form. The plot as it is involves Buster and Joe Roberts wooing the farmer’s daughter, which culminates in a high speed wedding on the back of a motorbike, which is exciting enough, but the lead up to that is also probably the most consistently funny Buster Keaton film I’ve seen, with almost constant invention and boatloads of charm in just about every single scene.

There’s even some piglets. I like piglets.

So yeah this one’s great. Hooray.

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Notes

1. I watched this on blu-ray, but grabbed the screenshots from this version on youtube

2. This was the first Buster Keaton film I ever saw.

3. And I loved it just as much now as I did then.

4. Two whole years ago.

5. What I noticed this time (that I had no scope of reference to notice last time), is how easily this one could have been another Fatty Arbuckle Buster Keaton double bill.

6. With Joe Roberts here in the Fatty Arbuckle role.

7. There’s the big man/small man dynamic, the chasing after a girl, Luke the Dog, everything.

8. Joe Roberts even does the coy, fluttering eyelids, thing when he sees Sybil Seely for the first time.

9. Although if this was still a Fatty Arbuckle production it’d have been him getting married at the end I suppose.

10. And also there’d probably have been at least one seen where he does something sort of stomach churningly crass, I suppose.

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Film Information

Title: The Scarecrow
Directors: Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline
Year: 1920
Duration: 20 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Convict 13 (1920)

In Convict 13, Buster Keaton takes up golf. He is sentenced to death for his crimes.

After the last two Buster Keaton films both being miniature masterpieces, this was bound to be a bit disappointing really, and so it (unfortunately) transpired. There’s very little in the way of his usual visual inventiveness here, a lot of the jokes seem to fall flat, and most of the scenes seem to drag on way too long. (It also probably doesn’t help that this was one of the poorest restorations so far).

And though it’s not anywhere near as much of an entirely misconceived abomination as Good Night, Nurse! (shudder), at least that never considered something as horrifying as golf to be a suitable topic for comedy.

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Notes

1. I watched this on blu-ray. The stills were taken from this version on youtube.

2. So yeah I didn’t like this one much. Sorry about that.

3. Also talking of Good Night, Nurse!, this also repeats its “it was all a dream!” ending.

4. Possibly in some sort of attempt at denying all responsibility for what has gone before.

5. Anyway at least it had a dog in it.

6. For ten seconds

7. Or possibly less.

8. The last section of Convict 13, where they have a big fight in the prison, is definitely the best section, though, and probably worth watching if you skip the first ten minutes or so.

9. And I certainly wasn’t expecting Buster Keaton to turn into one of those prison guards from Zelda who swing those big balls and chains around.

10. If only one of the convicts had had a boomerang with them maybe everything would have turned out okay.

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Film Information

Title: Convict 13
Directors: Buster Keaton; Edward F. Cline
Year: 1920
Runtime: 22 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

One Week (1920)

One Week is a twenty minute silent comedy, directed by, written by, and starring Buster Keaton, where him and his wife received a flat pack home and a plot of land as a wedding gift. I have no idea how realistic a scenario this was in 1920, but these days it’s basically science fiction, isn’t it?

This was the first actual film Buster Keaton released as the lead star (but the second made, after The ‘High Sign’), and it’s pretty much incredible from start to finish. Buster’s love of absurdly elaborate houses with trapdoors and pulleys and levers everywhere continues on from The ‘High Sign’ unabated, while some of his old favourite jokes from the Fatty Arbuckle films are brought back but done so well you don’t mind at all.

And the scale of the last couple of set-pieces is impressive even now, so god knows how mind blowing they were in 1920.

Pretty mind blowing, probably.

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Notes

1. I watched this on blu-ray again, but grabbe dthe screenshots from this version on youtube

2. I actually watched this back in 2020.

3. Actually doing my duty and watching things that were 100 years old.

4. Instead of 102 years old.

5. Or more.

6. Anyway I’m not sure why that review was so subdued.

7. Maybe something terrible had happened in 2020 I cannot remember.

8. But at least now everything is okay it’s alright everything is fine.

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Film Information

Title: One Week
Director: Buster Keaton; Edward F. Cline
Year: 1920
Duration: 22 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Garage (1920)

In The Garage, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton play car mechanics (who are also firemen). A fairly large proportion of the plot of this film involves everyone getting covered in engine oil.

This starts with Fatty Arbuckle re-doing the window cleaning joke from The Bell Boy (although his version isn’t anywhere near as good as Buster Keaton’s), but after that it’s all new stuff (well, mostly all new stuff). There’s some good scenes on a big turntable, Buster Keaton gets his trousers ripped off by Luke the Dog, and at the end everyone gets in a car and drives away into the sunset.

(Forever)
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Notes

1. I watched this on blu-ray again. The screenshots are taken from this copy on youtube.

2. The Garage was the very last film Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton made together.

3. So from now on it’s Buster Keaton only for me.

4. I’ll miss you, Fatty.

5. A bit.

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Film Information

Title: The Garage
Director: Fatty Arbuckle
Year: 1920
Duration: 21 minutes
Watch:

Categories
This Christmas Is 100 Years Old

Christmas Day Sports at Rhyl (1920)

Here’s two minutes of a Christmas Day hockey match, from exactly 100 years ago, in Wales.

I like the hats, and the general easy cheerfulness of everyone involved, and the air guitar using hockey sticks, and everyone smoking, even while playing sports, which has always been one of my favourite things

And the idea that human contact was once allowed is surprisingly moving these days after all.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player

2. (Note how there’s NO SNOW)

3. Or even seemingly any winter coats.

4. Also this is the second 100 year old film from Rhyl I’ve watched this year (see also the terrifying Mr. And Mrs. Jones Visit To Bracing Sunny Rhyl, North Wales, somewhere down that page.)

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Film Information

Title: Christmas Day Sports at Rhyl, 1920
Year: 1920
Runtime: 2 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

For some reason, 1920 seems to have been the unofficial year of Jekyll and Hyde, with this film, directed by John S. Robertson, and starring John Barrymore in the title role, one of four separate versions released over the course of the year (although there had been seven versions released prior to 1920, too, so maybe every year was the year of Jekyll and Hyde, to some extent, back then).

In this version, Dr. Jekyll is almost impossibly beautiful, his every expression one of such open kindness that, as he gets slowly sadder and more melancholy as the film progresses, his innocence slowly corrupted by his counterpart’s actions, it feels genuinely heartbreaking. Mr. Hyde, meanwhile, is a figure of leering menace and absolute malevolence, and the contrast between them is so great its almost impossible to remember, at times, that they’re both played by the same person.

And although John Barrymore’s portrayal of Hyde relies increasingly on his physical degeneracy into some sort of malign barely human goblin, the most impressive scene of the film is the initial transformation, where, through the simple power of acting (ACTING!), Jekyll’s beatific face contorts into Hyde’s malignant sneer.

The whole film, in fact, is stuffed full of classic horror images, though whether this film is the source of their the origin, or merely an early collation of such effective imagery, I don’t have the depth of knowledge to tell you. But I can at least show you a selection of stills, which should more than make up for my ignorance as a whole.

And though the film itself is slow at times (especially in the beginning), it is completely confident in its own direction, and also at times feels startlingly modern, such as in a flashback scene shown in sepia tinted hues, to indicate its age, in a black and white film, in 1920; or the unsettling surreality of a late nightmare, where a ghostly lobster (or possibly one of the microscopic mites Dr. Jekyll views under his microscope at the start, now grown to some monstrous size) climbs up onto the sleeping Jekyll’s bed and attacks him while he sleeps.

So yes, this is good. You should watch it.

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Notes

1. I watched this today on youtube.

2. Although I first saw it about 4 years ago at the Colchester Arts Centre, with a live soundtrack by Jason Frederick

3. Which can be bought here

4. If you’re so inclined.

5. (It’s worth it, because it’s great)

6. This doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, I suppose, but early on in this there’s this amazing interjection of unbroken cockney into the narrative, which left me wondering, once again, whether this addition of extra H’s, to make up for all the ones we drop, ever existed in actual spoken cockney, or was just a fabrication of the upper classes trying to mimic their speech (the 1950s book The Snow Goose is absolutely chock full of that sort of nonsense too, and that was definitely beyond the point where such a thing could ever have occurred, in so far as none of my relatives ever did such a thing, and they’d have been long alive by then).

7. The other three versions of Jekyll and Hyde from 1920 are: A satirical parody of this one, starring one of the Keystone Cops, and is now entirely lost; a version directed by J. Charles Haydon and starring Sheldon Lewis, that was released soon after this John Barrymore version, and was a huge failure (and although this version doesn’t appear to be actually lost, I failed to find a version online to watch for this article); and Der Janus-Kopf, a German adaptation directed by FW Murnau, starring Conrad Veidt (as both Jekyll and Hyde) and Bela Lugosi (as neither Jekyll nor Hyde).

8. That version is also entirely lost, which is heartbreaking, because presumably it was utterly perfect in every way.

9. I mean, just look at the poster

10. And then weep.
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Film Information

Title: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Director: John S. Robertson
Year: 1920
Duration: 80 minutes
Watch: youtube

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Nude Woman By Waterfall (1920)

Nude Woman By Waterfall is a short film from 1920, directed by Claude Friese-Greene, featuring a nude woman by a waterfall, and the same woman, not so nude, upon a cliff top. I reviewed it earlier in the year (well, “reviewed” it), and really loved it. It’s beautiful, beguiling, mysterious, odd, sad. All the best things in film, really.

Anyway, I rewatched it again today, because the always excellent Haiku Salut (who previously released/toured a live soundtrack to Buster Keaton’s The General) have released a new soundtrack for it, called Portrait In Dust.

Recorded as part of a project to re-score two films for the BFI (the other was 4 And 20 Fit Girls, from 1940, which they paired with Pattern Thinker), Portrait In Dust is a lovely piece of minimalist melancholy, which perfectly underscores the slightly unsettling ethereality of the film.

Anyway, it’s brilliant and I love it.

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Notes

1. I watched this on the BFI Player, while simultaneously listening to Haiku Salut on bandcamp

2. Earlier in the year I made a re-edit of this film, using the track Messy Hearts by Moon Ate The Dark as accompaniment.

3. In which I used all of Nude Woman By Waterfall except the shots of the nude woman by the waterfall.

4. I had hoped to show it somewhere

5. Sometime

6. But I fear that now the chance has gone

7. For a variety of reasons

8. Not least because Haiku Salut’s soundtrack is perfect.

9. And also everywhere is closed.

10. And always now shall be.

11. Maybe I should just project it out into the night

12. Onto the bamboo at the end of the garden

13. As they rustle in the wind

14. And weep in the rain.

15. Anyway I’ve added it to youtube here if you want a watch, but have no idea who long it will stay there, if their copyright robots allow it to live.

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Film Information

Title: Nude Woman By Waterfall
Director: Claude Friese-Greene
Year: 1920
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: BFI; youtube (extract only)

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

These Adverts Are Exactly 100 Years Old

Some more adverts, to go with yesterday’s ones, and these ones are all exactly 100 years old, instead of slightly older. I hope that is okay.

“Your Romance” (1920) / Candy Cushions (1920)

“Your Romance” is a (very) short cinema advert for a local jewellers (Herbert J. White’s in Frome), and is the sort of crap hyper local advert you used to get in cinemas, but sadly rarely do now, due to the tyranny of national chains with centralised advertising.

In the 3 seconds of actual film footage in the advert, a man gives a woman a ring, and then a kiss. THE END

Now the last time I went to the cinema, there might not have been any enjoyably amateur local ads, but there was at least an incredibly terrible advert for some new awful looking Slush Puppy style drink, that advertised itself as being “FROM AMERICA” because being from America is the way we know this is going to be the best possible food and/or drink item ever invented.

Anyway, that wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as Candy Cushions, which weren’t just the daintiest of creams, but also the latest novelty in American Sweets, 100 years ago today.

The height of this novelty was that they came in a little box with a free gift, like a piece of jewellery, or a tobacco pipe, or a razor, or maybe even some sort of switchblade, which is pretty wonderful, and certainly more fun that anything anyone’s ever found in a kinder egg.

I assume there was an American exclusive edition that contained a revolver, and was therefore not sold at the cinema, and only available in the import sweet shop round the corner, for several million pounds.

Transporting Loads, With Or Without Roads (1920) / A Dream Of Brave Men (1920)

Keeping up the comparison with the present, here are two 100 year old versions of modern staples of cinema advertising – an advert for some sort of off road vehicle you’ll never be able to afford, and would have no real need for if you ever could; and an excruciatingly long premium advert for some utterly mundane product (here: soap), that serves no discernible purpose at all to justify its existence.

Transporting Loads, With Or Without Roads is 6 minutes of footage of a Thornycroft off-raod vehicle, which looks pretty amazing, with a strange manipulable suspension system for the back two axles, as well as a pretty exciting mode where you can turn it into a miniature tank with a set of caterpillar tracks.

Let’s off road, etc, etc

There’s a scene in this, too, where the vehicle drives slowly down a hill, the landscape below sprawling out emptily towards the horizon, which I found oddly ominous, and which feels like some sort of eerie early version of Postman Pat, coming home from the war, his truck piled high with the bodies of a million dead.

A Dream Of Brave Men, meanwhile, is 6 minutes of absolute tedium, in which a maid gets some soap that’s so good she cleans the whole kitchen with it. Then she falls into a dream, where she cleans up a field hospital somewhere, too, thus winning the war.

The soap is called Pinkobolic, though, which is perhaps my favourite ever attempt at making some horrible industrial name into something nice and and totally unsinister sounding.

This entire advert is monstrous, obviously, but I did like the bit, where the title cards had been explaining the story, one short sentence at a time, in a nice big font, until suddenly they insert this one, with an entire novels worth of exposition crammed in, in a great big long sentence, with a hundred comma-separated clauses, in absolutely tiny letters.

Mr. And Mrs. Jones Visit To Bracing Sunny Rhyl, North Wales

Mr. And Mrs. Jones Visit To Bracing Sunny Rhyl, North Wales is a piece of local tourist office advertising, suggesting, hopefully, that “After you have seen this Picture you will want to visit this Popular Health Resort.”

This “Picture” consists of two minutes of Mr and Mrs Jones on the top of the bus, grinning maniacally, out of focus, dressed like some sort of folk terror clowns.

It is the most terrifying piece of footage ever unearthed and should not be watched under any circumstances.

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Notes

1. Again I watched these all on the BFI Player, and the links can be found above and below.

2. Herbert J. White’s jeweller store in Frome moved to Yeovil in the 1930s, and didn’t actually close down until last year.

3. I now want to visit Rhyl, the Popular Health Resort.

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Film Information

Title: “Your Romance”
Year: 1920
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Candy Cushions
Year: 1920
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Transporting Loads, With Or Without Roads
Year: 1920
Duration: 6 minutes
Watch: BFI Player

Title: A Dream Of Brave Men
Year: 1920
Duration: 6 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Title: Mr. And Mrs. Jones Visit To Bracing Sunny Rhyl, North Wales
Year: 1920
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI Player

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

One Week (1920)

In One Week, Buster Keaton builds a house. Hijinks ensue.

This is a pretty amiable Buster Keaton film, and I enjoyed it a lot, although I definitely preferred The Scarecrow.

That’s my entire review. I’m not really sure that was worth a two month wait, now, was it?

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Notes

1. I watched this on youtube here

2. Although that version has a soundtrack which sounds like it should be from a snow level on a Mario game

3. So I’d maybe suggest finding another version if you can.

4. This film also features an early version of the house falling on Buster Keaton gag (see first picture above).

5. Although the more famous version of it is this one, in Steamboat Bill Jr., from 1928.

6. Which was then remade by Steve McQueen in 1997

7. And which was first version I saw

8. So now I’ve seen all three versions of it, I suppose

9. In reverse chronological order

10. Slowly

11. Over the course of my entire adult life

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Film Information

Title: One Week
Director: Buster Keaton; Edward F. Cline
Year: 1920
Duration: 24 minutes
Watch: youtube