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TRIPLE TROUBLE was made up scraps from old Essanay takes that Chaplin decided not to use. It was made up of old bits and pieces from WORK, POLICE and an unfinished feature, LIFE. Chaplin did not authorize this patchwork film. It was put together with new footage directed by Leo White. In all fairness to Chaplin, he did not even authorize this production to be made. In 1918, he was making films like A DOG'S LIFE and SHOULDER ARMS. The only difference between TRIPLE TROUBLE and the countless other patchwork compilation films mad during the "Chaplin craze" is that this film offers footage not to be found anywhere else. For that it may be worth seeing, even though it is not up to Chaplin's usual standards. Interestingly enough, though, he included this film in his filmography published in his autobiography.
Charlie Chaplin's final Essanay film is probably his most
controversial. Unlike the controversy his films created in the 1930s
and 40s, the controversy surrounding Triple Trouble comes from its very
existence. The two reel film was created in 1918; two years after
Chaplin left Essanay and was compiled by Chaplin regular Leo White.
White directed some sequences and took other scenes from Police as well
as the ending from Work and some unused footage from the never
completed Life. The result is a hodgepodge of half completed jokes,
tired scenes and uneven continuity.
The plot (I think) involves Chaplin working in the house of a scientist/Count (Leo White) as a janitor. Having got into his trademark trouble and briefly bumping into a Maid (Edna Purviance) whose role is not expanded, the janitor finds a bed for the night at a flophouse. While there a pickpocket enters and starts stealing from the residents. The janitor attempts to stop him and then for some reason runs away from the police. Later the janitor meets an old friend who convinces the cleaner to help him to steal from his employers.
As you can probably gather from that brief plot description the film makes no sense. One minute Chaplin will be in a scene then wont be seen again for several minutes, turning up for a few seconds in a situation obviously taken from another film. In one scene the thief is directed to the house he needs to steal from but then later on needs the janitor to show him where it is. Chaplin also runs away from the police at one stage despite having done nothing wrong. The whole thing is a mess.
What annoyed me most is that the film takes some of the best parts of other films and drops them in. My favourite scene in Police when Chaplin steals from a thief while the thief is searching him for money is used here. All that was done to hide the fact is a reversal of the frame so that Chaplin stands to the right here rather that to the left as is Police. A scene at the end of the film is lifted from Chaplin's earlier Essanay Work. In that film it made perfect sense and was incredibly funny. Here Chaplin wasn't even in the room in the moments before yet ends up under a load of rubble.
The story and jokes aren't as sophisticated as in the likes of Police, The Bank or A Night in the Show. There are very few actual original gags at all although calling the family of the house Nutt made me laugh as that meant that the janitor worked in the Nutt house. There is very little humour in the Nutt house though and the long, drawn out scene in the flophouse was dull and uninspiring. The set was easily recognisable from Police but the question of whether the footage was taken from Police outtakes or from Life remains unresolved. One of the few saving graces is Wesley Ruggles' cook's facial hair. Chaplin's character actors were renowned for OTT fake facial hair but Ruggles takes it to new heights here with massively over the top beard and moustache as well as the largest and most pointy fake eyebrows I've ever seen. It's incredible.
One nugget of interest comes in the overt use of anti German language. The film was released when the USA had finally entered the First World War and it appears that this film was set in Germany. One intertitle mentions teaching the Hun a new goose step and there is mockery of Germanic names.
In the end it feels wrong to call Triple Trouble a Charlie Chaplin film, although he did include it in the filmography for his own autobiography. (Which if you haven't read, is an excellent book and well worth picking up). The film created even more animosity between Chaplin and the company and can comfortably be considered the worst of their partnership.
The visual quality of the print I watched was poor and my mind kept wandering as I watched which I thought might be the reason why I found the plot of this film so difficult to follow. Then I looked on IMDb and everything became clear. This isn't one film so much as a patchwork of deleted scenes from two of Chaplin's old films for Essanay (the studio he left three years before this was released) and new material which didn't feature Chaplin at all. The result is the kind of irritating mess you'd expect when it's creation is prompted by the desire to make a quick buck rather than any the result of any creative drive. I wouldn't waste your time on this one unless you're a Chaplin completist...
Charlie Chaplin left Essanay studios after about a year because the
studio "big wigs" began cutting and splicing his films even after he
was guaranteed control over his films. They reneged on the bargain, so
Chaplin sued (unsuccessfully).
About two years after his break, some idiots at Essanay had the sleazy idea of taking deleted film scenes, his last previous complete Essanay short (POLICE, 1916) and splicing in some NEW scenes to make a "new" Chaplin short. The result, while not 100% horrible, is a confusing mess of a story compared to other Chaplin shorts. Plus, it just seemed wrong to even release the film. My advice is see it to see what this final product looked like from a historical perspective but don't see it for its artistic merit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As the title says. To a Chaplin-fan, it's difficult to decide whether
one should loathe or embrace TRIPLE TROUBLE; not only so due to the
film's inconsistent qualities, but because its very right to exist in
the first place can be debated, if not legally then at least from an
ethical standpoint. When the Essanay film company released this
two-reeler in the summer of 1918, being on the verge of bankruptcy,
Chaplin had in fact abandoned the company two years ago. In the
meantime, he had developed remarkably as a film-maker through his
twelve short films for the Mutual company, and had behind him his first
effort at First National, A DOG'S LIFE. The arguably somewhat crude
humor which been present in several of his Essanay-films was now tuned
down for the sake of a more character-driven, human and slightly poetic
approach. It can be assumed that Chaplin, possibly even more so than
his audiences, was very conscious of this development and felt little
need to be associated with his earlier work.
However, the Chaplin-craze was still very much an active phenomenon by the end of the first world war, and Essanay would not let a chance to make an additional buck pass them by, even though Chaplin on his part considered them a closed chapter. They churned out TRIPLE TROUBLE, a two-reel film assembled partly from outtakes that had been left by Chaplin at the studio while he was still working there, as well as new-shot footage by Leo White, who once had played the frequent "count-type role" in Chaplin's films. The result is by and large a mess, and was received unfavorably by critics even at the time. Whereas Chaplin had always, even in his earliest and crudest films, gone for simple and relatively down-to-earth plots, TRIPLE TROUBLE serves a story more reminiscent of the crazy antics of contemporary comedy team Ham and Bud. Inventor Colonel Nutt has invented a new brand of explosives, which a foreign agent is eager to get his hands on; unsuccessful in his request for the formula, he puts some bandits on the case. A rather incoherent chase develops, and that's your story; somewhere in the middle of this, Charlie is thrown in as a janitor, and appears in a few scenes with hard-working woman Edna Purviance and at a flop-house.
So we don't have much of a good film, that's for sure, and Chaplin had every right to be infuriated. Still fresh on his mind was Essanay's contamination of his BURLESQUE ON CARMEN upon his departure, and now they had even hired another director to fill in the gaps of a film that was supposed to be his but which he never approved of in the first place! There was nothing he could do about the situation, as he did not yet legally own his films while working at the company. Still, I must admit, as a die-hard fan of Chaplin, that I somehow, somewhere in a forbidden spot in my heart, am grateful that the film saw the light of day. Essanay closed shop shortly after the film's release, and as Chaplin is unlikely to have been interested in any outtakes he'd made years before, the few scenes with him in TRIPLE TROUBLE would in all probability have been lost forever without this project. Chaplin's status as a comic genius would undoubtedly have been secured anyhow, but surely there are some memorable moments to be found here; I love it, for instance, when the Tramp first forces an odd-lookin' fellow to sleep by brutally knocking him down with a hammer, only to finally kiss him gently good-night on the head.
The origin of the Chaplin-footage in TRIPLE TROUBLE has been subject to much debate in itself. It seems to be widely accepted that the material was shot by Chaplin as part of an intended full-length film entitled LIFE, which was abandoned due to the constant demand for new Chaplin-releases. However, personally I believe this theory has been granted more acceptance than it is probably worthy of. It seems to be correct that Essanay announced at one point that Chaplin did intend to make a full-length film by said title, but as far as I know there is no evidence to be found whatsoever that any scenes from this aborted project were actually shot. Yet another theory speculates that the footage used in TRIPLE TROUBLE consists of outtakes from Chaplin's last "official" Essanay-film POLICE, but again, there is little if any concrete proof to be found that may back this up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As several reviewers have noted, Chaplin left Essanay after his film Police. Footage from that film was combined with footage from Work and a never released production called Life. The result is what could be expected from such a mishmash. This is clearly Chaplin's worst film up to this point. The narrative is barely there, and the action on the screen does not seem to follow it most of the time. There is maybe one genuinely funny moment; it's the one where Chaplin has a bottle in his hand. There is one interesting bit of footage included in the film obviously taken from Work; it's a quick edit of several policemen being tossed up in the air by the exploding stove. The scene was cut from Work, but it creates an excellent feeling of an up-in-the-air view. * of 4 stars.
Although it's a confusing, generally unfunny mess, the feeble quality of
"Triple Trouble" is by no means Charlie Chaplin's fault. As others have
also pointed out, this "comedy" was patched together at the Essanay Studio
from some old, unused Chaplin footage, with some other material thrown in.
The piecemeal approach definitely shows - little in the movie makes sense,
and there are only a few humorous moments.
The story tries to tie together Chaplin's characters from a couple of other movies, one apparently unreleased, with some other characters whose purpose is never clearly established. Only the presence of Chaplin makes any of it watchable, and the only real interest is to see some old footage of Chaplin that otherwise would not have been released. Just as today's studios continually re-use the same stale plot ideas, apparently in the hope that the public will swallow anything with a familiar name in the cast, so also this seems to have been just an attempt to get one more movie out of Chaplin's name, after he himself had gone on to bigger things.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WARNING: SMALL SPOILER AHEAD
Triple Trouble is a Charlie Chaplin film made by Essanay in 1918, almost 2 years after Chaplin left the company. It was made by putting together unused Chaplin footage from 1916 and splicing it together with newly-filmed footage. And surprisingly, it's not that bad. The plot is slightly hard to follow, but the gags make up for it. There is one obvious mistake though. When Charlie is running away, he isn't wearing his jacket. But in the next shot, he has his jacket, as well as his cane, which he had left behind. Despite it's flaws, I rate Triple Trouble 5 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Chaplin's final two shorts for Essanay before leaving for Mutual in
1916 were fraught with problems. The previous year's "Burlesque on
Carmen" was given an extra two reels with extraneous footage, while
Chaplin's likable "Police" (a reworking of the story from "His
Regeneration") was heavily edited by the company.
Unused footage from "Police" was then later combined with discarded scenes from "Work" and the uncompleted "Life" to make this final short for Essanay - without Chaplin's consent or involvement - and released in 1918. As might be expected from such a patchwork genesis, then it isn't terribly good and Chaplin's appearances in the film only amount to around half the runtime. While the clips involving Chaplin are often quite appealing, there's little or no narrative cohesion linking them, and later restorations of "Police" and "Work" restoring scenes used in this short make a further nonsense of its plot framework. Chaplin himself slated this extension, observing in his autobiography that it "prostrated me and sent me to bed for two days."
This said, the quality of the Essanay output is such that differences between Triple Trouble and the rest of the 1915 output isn't often that marked. Yet with clearly different actors reprising the roles from the scenes with Chaplin, and Chaplin's character being one of his most dislikeable takes (including flicking ash into a man's mouth and smashing a bottle over his head) then it isn't one with a great deal of appeal. Like much of the period, worthwhile for historical interest only.
There are times in a role model's career when their work completely irritates their fans. None more so than 'Triple Trouble'. Despite Chaplin's contribution to silent Hollywood, some of his projects were absolutely disastrous. One can't help thinking that he had too much luck on his side.
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