A better than average for the time along with a healthy dose of propaganda
This film came out during WWI and although the United States had remained neutral during much of the war, once they entered it, the country switched very quickly from indifference to fervently anti-German. Because of an all-out propaganda assault that included many of the film industry's best (such as Chaplin in THE WAR BOND), spies and evil Germans abounded in films made in 1917-1918.
This film represents one of Larry Semon's pro-war films. He is a clumsy guy working in a restaurant and oddly, everyone who works in the place as well as many of the customers are Kaiser-loving spies. Why they would be headquartered in a restaurant in California, I have no idea! Regardless, their aim is to steal some plans from some old guy and his daughter. When Semon finds out, he comes to the rescue.
The film features a few bad clichés of the day (such as guys wildly shooting each other in the butt), but compared to the average comedy of the day, it's still very good--even better than some of Chaplin's and Arbuckle's. What is good about it is the usual Semon athleticism. Aside from Keaton, he was probably among the most lithe performers--like a circus acrobat in film. There are also quite a few legitimate laughs--including a building that seems very easy to smash apart near the end of the film. I disagree, though, with a review that says this is typical of Semon, as I really think it is a bit better--as I found myself laughing several times--something I rarely do when I watch his films.
By the way, although he's not used effectively (who knew?!), Stan Laurel is one of the bad guys. There's nothing particularly inspired or interesting about his performance and seeing this it is hard to tell that a comedic genius was hiding within this unassuming bit actor.
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