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Haunted Spooks (1920)

Passed | | Short, Comedy | 14 March 1920 (USA)
After numerous failed attempts to commit suicide, our hero (Lloyd) runs into a lawyer who is looking for a stooge to stand in as a groom in order to secure an inheritance for his client (... See full summary »

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(as Alf Goulding),

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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The Boy
...
The Girl
Wallace Howe ...
The Uncle
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Storyline

After numerous failed attempts to commit suicide, our hero (Lloyd) runs into a lawyer who is looking for a stooge to stand in as a groom in order to secure an inheritance for his client (Davis). The inheritance is a house, which her scheming uncle "haunts" so that he can scare them off and claim the property. Written by Herman Seifer <alagain@aol.com>

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Genres:

Short | Comedy

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

14 March 1920 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Det spøger!  »

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(2004 video edition)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming was interrupted when Harold Lloyd, posing for publicity photos, had a prop bomb explode in his hand. He lost two fingers, his face was badly burned and he was temporarily blinded. In subsequent films, he is always seen wearing a prosthetic glove on his injured hand. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
The Girl: Say, what's our name?
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User Reviews

 
Inspired, hilarious, ingenious - the first of Lloyd's shorts to truly grab me
21 May 2009 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

I in the process of watching or revisiting all of Lloyd's short and feature work and the first few shorts i've watched that i had not previous seen, most notably Number, Please?, have not seemed to have the inspired genius of his features, relying more on the tired run-fall down-slapstick violence and chases of the over-rated Keystone films and Roscoe Arbuckle. They certainly had good moments but were did not offer the Harold of the features.

In Haunted Spooks though we have a film that is ingenious, hilarious and inspired.

From a wonderful introduction to Harold (he's in frame a good 30 seconds before you see him, a truly brilliant reveal) the invention never lets up. The film could easily have sustained 4 reels or more, there is so much going on.

The highlight is a hilarious sequence where Harold, left suicidal by yet another rejection, tries to find ways to do the deed. The result of one attempt involving drowning is priceless and as funny a gag as Lloyd ever produced. Another involving the typical self-absorbed nature of people as a man pauses him in another attempt to ask for a light and then the time while failing to notice the circumstances is equally riotous. It is a gloriously dark vein of comedy for Lloyd, and one he would revisit, that brings to mind Keaton - who often got great fun out of the subject, perfectly demonstrating the fine line between tragedy and comedy.

Here Lloyd does the same perfectly. To so generally happy a character as Lloyd generally portrayed (in contrast to Keaton's more dour screen persona) is ought to be a sad moment (and is one Chaplin would have milked for sentiment) but the triumph of humour over the tragedy is his genius. I know some over-serious types find the subject distasteful but that is to miss the comment which is the fine line between tragedy and comedy, a subject all the finest of the silent comedians (Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton) understood well and exploited to wonderful effect.

Thankfully the overt ugly and lazy slapstick of violence and chases is largely missing here in favour of genuine laughs and ingenious devices. Bizarrely in the haunted house section of the film there is even a moment that evokes thoughts of FW Murnau's Nosferatu despite the fact that Lloyd's film pre-dates the German masterpiece by 2 years (and it's US premiere by 9).

Mildred Davis, Harold's future wife, is as delightful as always but it is Harold's maturing in comedic styles here that marks this out as a special piece. The only vague marring of the film is a racial stereotyping of the servants in the house - an unfortunate byproduct of the time that seen through modern eyes gains a more negative aspect - but we must remember the time in which the film was made and not judge too harshly for that - in fact Lloyd gives the moment of triumphant discovery to the butler, ably demonstrating his generosity in not always taking centre-stage (in fact Lloyd is missing from probably a quarter of the film entirely).

It is also interesting to note that the accident with a prop bomb which claimed index finger and thumb from his right hand and nearly killed him happened during production of Haunted Spooks, halting production for some months, and the prosthetic glove by wore to disguise this is first evident here. Indeed there are scenes clearly showing his real hand and others with the much lighter in colour prosthetic.

A must see for anyone who not only wants a good laugh but wants to see the mastery of Lloyd at his best in his shorts.


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