This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Bell Boy (1918)

The Bell Boy is the seventh Fatty Arbuckle/Buster Keaton collaboration (or at least the seventh surviving one), and probably the best yet, in which the pair of them play Bell Boys at a dysfunctional hotel.

The plot of this is basically that Fatty Arbuckle is utterly bored at work and decides to piss around. It’s a pretty good plot, to be honest, and beats the usual Fatty Arbuckle storyline, where he’s just relentlessly unpleasant for 20 minutes for reasons I find difficult to discern.

It’s also an almost non-stop cavalcade of jokes (including an incredible window cleaning gag from Buster Keaton), with a nice line in slightly surreal humour, and some good use of pulleys and contraptions too, which I always like (though nothing on the scale of the stuff Buster Keaton contrives in The Scarecrow)

Towards the end, they run out of hotel jokes and stage a bank robbery instead, presumably so Buster Keaton can show off his incredible range of acrobatic skills. There’s a five minute fight, followed by a motorbike chase, and a runaway tram. It’s pretty exciting.




1. I watched this on blu-ray yet again. The stills are captured from this youtube version.

2. I liked this one a lot, although it’s still probably only the third best hotel based silent film I’ve watched this year, after these two wondrous marvels.

3. This one also has a (very short) stop-motion sequence (I think), so keeps up the hotel/animation theme of The Electric Hotel and Hotel Electrique, even if only for about a second.

4. Also there’s a shaving scene, but rather than being pretty delightful, like the one in Hotel Electrique, this one is just utterly interminable.

5. And probably the only part of this I actually disliked.

6. This might also be the first Fatty Arbuckle film I’ve watched where he’s not just an absolute arsehole.

7. Which makes a nice change of pace.

8. And also the scene where he and his girlfriend drive around in a car for a bit reminded me of this bit from the new Twin Peaks for some reason.

9. Which was nice.

10. (This one also had a brief shot of a dog in it but it wasn’t Luke the Dog at all unfortunately it was some other dog entirely)


Film Information

Title: The Bell Boy
Director: Fatty Arbuckle
Year: 1918
Duration: 25 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The Haunted Hotel (1907) / Hôtel Électrique (1908)

The Haunted Hotel (which was directed by J. Stuart Blackton and released in 1907) and Hôtel Électrique (which was directed by Segundo de Chomón and released in 1908) are two variations on almost exactly the same theme (that theme being haunted hotels, where everything inside moves around in marvellous stop motion ways).

The Haunted Hotel mixes live action, stop motion (and pixilation) animation, as well as a bunch of other film trickery techniques, to create a series of short scenes where a weary traveller is haunted first by his dinner, then by a napkin, and finally by the entire room itself. It’s wonderful. Especially the end.

This is one of the oldest surviving stop motion films (some of the same director’s earlier attempts are among the many lost), but it’s not only remarkably technically adept, but pretty funny too (I laughed at least three times in six minutes, which is fairly good going I reckon).

The Haunted Hotel was so successful in Europe that apparently every film maker in France spent the next year trying to work out all of Blackton’s techniques (according to wikipedia, at least), which is presumably how Segundo de Chomón’s Hôtel Électrique came about.

Hôtel Électrique copies the basic template of the first film, but upgrades the setting from some dismal single room to a plush, posh French hotel, at the cutting edge of modernity. No expense is spared in providing the guests with the luxuries deserving of their class. Suitcases are unpacked, shoes are shined, hair is brushed, faces are shaved, all in perfect stop motion.

In this film, though, it’s not ghosts pestering people, but electric automation. What starts off as smoothly gliding suitcases and carefully swirling razor blades devolves into chaos when the inevitably of technological failure rears its head and everything turns to horror. The only thing to do is escape with your lives.

It would be another 80 years until Stanley Kubrick remade these two films as The Shining. Never once did he admit his inspiration.



1. I watched both of these on youtube

2. The Haunted Hotel here

3. And Hotel Electrique here

4. The picture quality on both is disappointingly terrible

5. Which is a shame

6. I don’t know if there’s better quality versions available elsewhere

7. But I assume there must be, because the gif of the woman having her hair brushed in Hotel Electrique on wikipedia looks utterly marvellous

8. Although maybe that’s simply because it’s been squidged down to almost nothing

9. I watched an earlier J. Stuart Blackton cartoon previously on here

10. Although it was so awful I hid it in the comments rather than give it any prominence on the main part of the article.

11. But The Haunted Hotel is so excellent I have forgiven him now


Film Information

Title: The Haunted Hotel
Director: J. Stuart Blackton
Year: 1907
Duration: 7 minutes
Watch: youtube

Title: Hôtel Électrique
Director: Segundo de Chomón
Year: 1908
Duration: 10 minutes
Watch: youtube