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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood "Joy Powder" classic

Author: Tiki-4
17 July 2000

I first came across this little gem while watching "Night Flight" on the USA Network in the very early 1980s. I was astounded and thought this must surely be a clever parody of silent movies, I mean the drug use was just so, BLATANT. I have never seen anything like it since and I am thankful that I was recording the show that night so I can convince myself that it was NOT just a dream and that there really was such a movie. A wonderful, silent comedy that will have you bug-eyed with amazement as well as laughing uproariously. Not Cheech & Chong crude, but weird in a spooky 1916 way, maybe the good old days werent as "innocent" as we are led to believe. if you get a chance (although I dont know who would DARE show this on TV anymore...) SEE IT! Behold, Bemuse and Bewilder!

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:


Author: citizenjklm from United States
6 June 2006

I haven't seen this film since the '70s midnight movies craze. This short blew by, but was incredibly funny.

Detective Coke Ennyday's clock (set on Sleep as we first see him with his head down on his desk) has four settings: Eat-Drink-Sleep & Dope.

When the hands shift to Dope, Ennyday pulls out of Flour Canister, opens it to reveal contents of white powder, grabs a handful and blows it for comedic effect about his face and the room.

As I recall the depiction of opium dens is somewhat ominous (probably quite scary for 1916 movie audiences). There is an air of anti-Chinese sentiment in the film (also playing upon 1916 fears?)

And yes, Ennyday has a television transmitter that he uses to communicate. Odd to see from a 1916 film, but actually pretty accurate in its design to some of the earliest TV Tuners.

Thank you, IMDb, for helping me to track down the title to this film. I need to seek it out for another viewing.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The early days of drug humor

Author: Gary Dickerson ( from Lexington, KY
15 September 2000

This very strange comedy from 1916 features a not-quite-yet-a-star Douglas Fairbanks (Senior) as Coke Ennyday, a bumbling private detective who spends most of his time injecting, snorting, or otherwise ingesting opium & cocaine products. ("Coke Ennyday" - get it?)

There's neat-o effects like backwards film to show Ennyday leaping out of water or onto rafters, as well as some minor slapstick, but the film's not all that funny, just weird. A recurring image is Ennyday looking a bit down, hand propping up his drooping face, the other reaching into his rope where a a belt of syringes is strapped around his chest. He'll take a syringe, inject himself, & then his face will beam with happiness.

Was drug humor like this popular in the 1910s? Did people really have that sort of knowledge about what cocaine could do? I don't really know, but for the modern audience - I saw this last night & the crowd ate it up - its utter strangeness & the farce that drug use is returned to is sure to please.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Yes, they knew what drugs were...

Author: Silent_Era from United States
14 January 2006

What an amazing piece of history! Most people don't know that, yes, cocaine was in extremely wide recreational use in the years between 1900-1925. In fact it was something of an epidemic in the latter years of that period. The facts that hospitals were swamped with cocaine addicts and that as much as a 1/5 of some city populations were registered as addicted are lost to common historical knowledge.

However this film, made by Tod Browning (the infamous creator of "Freaks"), has absolutely nothing negative to say about cocaine: Cocaine is funny, cocaine is fun, and cocaine lets you do superhuman things.

Fairbanks, who was a coke addict in real life, stars in this film. It's funny simply for the fact that it's an unapologetic pro-drug comedy, though if you don't find that kind of thing funny, you won't find this movie interesting at all. In fact it seems like the movie was made on drugs, the titles go by so quickly that you'd have to be a member of Mensa just to read them without pausing. The plot is nonexistent, it's just a series of cheap drug gags, in the vein of Cheech & Chong had they lived in 1915.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Detective movie parody

Author: psteier from New York
7 February 2000

One of the funniest movies ever (in my unhumble opinion) and must be seen to be believed. Modern "scientific" detective Douglas Fairbanks gets on the case of an opium smuggling gang and rescues the kidnapped girl from the gang's Chinese hideout.

Contains what may be the first television shown in a movie.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Weird, and They Knew It

Author: Cineanalyst
31 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Douglas Fairbanks successfully starred in modern comedies before embarking on his better-remembered career of historical swashbucklers in the 1920s. "The Mystery of the Leaping Fish", however, isn't like his other comedies. It's his only two-reel short film, as he otherwise made feature-length productions of five reels or more. It's most outrageously different, however, for its humorous portrayal of drug use. In it, Fairbanks plays a detective with a drug habit, or rather a life of drugs—a Sherlock Holmes parody; throughout the picture, he pokes himself with syringes he carries in a bandolier, when not snorting cocaine by the handful, drinking concocted cocktails, or eating gobs of opium. It gives a completely new meaning to Fairbanks's usual exuberance. Appropriately, his character's name is Coke Ennyday. Ironically, this drug-fiend detective foils a plot by smugglers to import drugs.

"The Mystery of the Leaping Fish" has acquired a decent cult status for a silent film from the 1910s, and I consider it one of Fairbanks's most enjoyable comedies. Yet, Fairbanks, reportedly, disliked it so much that he didn't want it distributed. According to Jeffrey Vance ("Douglas Fairbanks"), the film was made twice: first by Christy Cabanne, who was fired and whose footage was entirely discarded, and then by John Emerson with the assistance of Tod Browning—this second filming is what was released and what we see today. Besides Fairbanks, credit here needs to go to Browning's very original scenario, in addition to Emerson's direction and Anita Loos's title card writing. In the end and within the movie, the film we just saw turns out to be a scenario pitch by Fairbanks, and it's such a weird idea that it's rejected. I like it.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Wacky!

Author: crs308 from United States
27 July 2006

Great for a laugh, this film is totally bizarre! Perhaps the single strangest silent comedy I've ever seen, it's very enjoyable, and leaves a viewer with the question, "where on earth did they get this stuff?!" Like a version of Popeye who is powered by drugs in the place of spinach, Douglas Fairbanks' "Coke Ennyday" is the manifestation of absurdity. His wild inventions and disguises add even more flavor to this already ludicrous comedy. The film's wacky style is reminiscent of "Alice in Wonderland," and the sheer preposterousness of its goings-on are enough to bewilder the brain while delighting the heart. I would recommend this film to anyone who is willing to give it a chance. Hilarious and bizarre!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

THE MYSTERY OF THE LEAPING FISH (John Emerson and, uncredited, Christy Cabanne, 1916) ***

Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta
6 January 2009

I know allusions to drug addiction in cinema date as far back as the Silent era, but surely none were as blatant as this bizarre Sherlock Holmes parody! From a story by future horror exponent Tod Browning and starring Douglas Fairbanks (as removed from his typical characterization as can be imagined), it deals with the exploits of master detective Coke Ennyday(!) who's constantly lifting himself up – via the intake of drugs – from apparently chronic moroseness. He contrives nevertheless to accept the titular case, centering around a seaside ring of smugglers (whose leader is literally depicted as being covered in money); aiding the hero in thwarting their nefarious plans is Bessie Love, who shows to be perfectly capable of standing up to any man. While the detection in itself is nothing special, the sheer amorality on display lends the whole a decidedly grotesque quality – which, with the star's perpetual drowsy/euphoric countenance, undeniably heightens the film's comic quotient; the sheer fact that it's all eventually revealed as merely a story being pitched to the studio by Fairbanks, but which is unsurprisingly rejected, clearly makes this a case of 'having your cake and eating it'!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Hopped Up

Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
26 June 2008

Usually when you delve into films this old and minor, its a slog through the ordinary. But every once in a while, you encounter something pretty radical.

This is a story of an ersatz Sherlock Holmes played by Douglas Fairbanks (senior), and is framed by him as himself trying to sell the script.

Within the story proper, we have two components. One is a spoof of Sherlock as a dope fiend, someone who literally cannot go more than 60 seconds without an injection. The second component is a reduced mystery involving drug smuggling and ending with the detective "Coke Ennyday" getting the girl. Both of these use the same comic devices involving the effects of cocaine, then legal.

Its a bit tiresome after a while, but the thing continues to surprise with secondary comic effects that are quite clever. In fact, I enjoyed this more than the last twenty contemporary comedies I have seen. But then I am a particularly receptive audience because I take the detective form so seriously.

The talent here is Tod Browning, from the era of "Intolerance." It shows.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Love this movie - and the music

Author: comz2u from Canada
8 October 2006

I've had a copy of this film for years - got it as a gift from someone about 14 years ago on a 'compliation' video. Always pulled this one out for sharing because people are amazed when they see it - it's outrageous. Even had a friend who went as "Coke Ennyday" for a Halloween party one year! I find the film ridiculously funny and some of the stunts are hilarious.

The film is a detective parady, a farce and, to me, a social commentary, a insider's wink at friends on the madness of the drug use that was presumably going on all over - before all the regulations. Just fun, fun, fun. That in itself is what is so amazing about it. It will alter any conservative romanticism about the good ole 'daze'! No one has commented on the rich and hilarious background track of music (I've got one on mine) filled with early American music all about drugs. The songs and the music are fabulous.

To me, this is a film made by friends for friends.

I haven't pulled this one out for years but will go on the hunt for it and watch it again - I absolutely love Douglas Fairbanks. I'm looking forward to getting The Thief Of Bagdad which is one of my favorites.

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