One of the plots that D.W. Griffith frequently employed at Biograph was the race to rescue some one whose life was in danger -- indeed, the story predated his appearance at the studio. In movie after movie, from 1908's THE FATAL HOUR through the race by the Klan in BIRTH OF A NATION, that melodramatic race against time to save someone from a terrible fate -- often a fate worse than death -- was a sure crowd pleaser.
Because it was such a crowd pleaser and done so many times, by the time Sennett started Keystone it was more than ripe for a lampoon. Sennett often based his comedies on Griffith's serious melodramas, and here is his first effort in that vein for his new company: some nuts have tied up James Morton and planted an Infernal Device next to him. A little girl rushes to tell the adults about it instead of simply pulling out the fuse or freeing Morton in a one-turn variation of Max Linder's LE PENDU. Ford Sterling, who is in love with Morton's wife, who has fainted at the dread news, shuts the girl in the cyclone cellar and and deliberately waits until it is too late, figuring he can marry the widow.
It turns all the assumptions of Griffith's polite melodramatic world on their heads and the audience, familiar with Griffith's work, must have howled -- because this is what they would have done in Sterling's place.
Sennett and his staff would elaborate on this theme endlessly, inventing the Keystone Kops and their inept races to the scenes of a crime in furtherance of it, but here it is in its first form. Even today, it's funny.
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