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Mickael GoUpSkey, a foreign agent, is aboard a train en route to purchase planes for his country's military. A.C. Walrus, an agent for a rival country, is also aboard that same train and is ordered by his government to stop GoUpSkey from making that purchase at whatever cost. National security takes a back seat for Walrus when he meets and pursues a beautiful young woman on the train, she to who the foreign agent is also attracted. Walrus eventually learns that she is the daughter of the plane manufacturer and an aviatrix in her own right. Mayhem ensues when Walrus is able to test fly the demonstration plane, with GoUpSkey in hot pursuit. But also in pursuit are the young woman her aviator boyfriend and the police, the latter who are dealing with the destruction caused by the Walrus/GoUpSkey battle. Written by
The output of Mack Sennett's Keystone studio has been unfairly stereotyped as mindless slapstick: a steady diet of custard pies and pratfalls, climaxing in a chase. Although many Keystones did conform to that formula, many others did not. Some notable exceptions were the rural comedies starring Ora Carew and Joseph Belmont, featuring a much gentler sort of humour.
'Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts' is a Keystoner that varies the formula, placing more emphasis on daredevil thrills. There is some slapstick here, but most of it occurs within a framework of aerial thrills and bravado stunt work (much of it crudely faked, yet thrilling in its audacity). There are laughs here, but the movie is more interested in astonishing us ... and it does so, delightfully.
Chester Conklin, one of Sennett's second-string comedians, plays an unnamed foreign agent, bidding against a rival for an experimental aeroplane. Cora Anderson plays the daughter of the owner of the Eagle aviation company, who is a fine aviatrix in her own right. She's aboard the craft when Chester skyjacks it. There are some trick shots here, blatantly phony yet very impressive for 1915. Another pilot pursues Chester and his hostage. The ending will please you, although it won't surprise you.
Along the way, there are some unexpected laughs and some impressive stunt work. One sequence features the blatant use of a dummy, when Chester gets caught in the aeroplane's spinning propeller ... but the 'body' that revolves is obviously a stuffed mannequin. The pacing of this comedy is rapid-fire, faster than usual even by Keystone standards, and the editing is far superior to Keystone's usual fare.
As I've mentioned the pacing, here's a good place to clear up a misconception about silent comedies in general and Keystone comedies in particular. There is a modern perception that all silent slapstick films (especially Keystones) were intentionally projected too quickly, to speed up the actors. Although there was some intentional undercranking (to increase the interval between frames, and thus accelerate the action), this was rare and was usually reserved for stunt sequences. The misconception arose because modern projectors run at a faster speed than silent-era projectors, and for several decades these old films were always shown at an unnaturally rapid speed. Videotape technology (and now DVD) gives us an opportunity to correct this error, restoring these classics to their intended projection rate.
'Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts' is thrilling, funny and outrageous, and I'll rate it 9 out of 10. Well done, Mack Sennett and Chester Conklin!
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