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The Haunted House (1921)

7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,329 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 8 critic

A bank clerk ends up in a seemingly haunted house that is actually a thieves' hideout.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Virginia Fox ...
Joe Roberts ...
Bank Cashier
Edward F. Cline ...
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Storyline

Buster is a bank clerk. Overturned glue gets everything, mostly the money, stuck to everything else. When robbers show up he can't "stick 'em up" because his hands are stuck in his pockets. The robbers' hideout is a haunted house designed to scare off police. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Comedy | Horror

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

21 February 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A kísértetjárta ház  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
"The little idiot from the bank"
5 March 2006 | by (England) – See all my reviews

'How do I love Keaton? Let me count the ways...'

As I watch more and more of Buster Keaton's films, I find myself reduced to a state of abject adoration that I am at an almost complete loss to convey; it's easier by far to comment on the individual elements that may disappoint in any given film, but this totally fails to reflect the sheer degree of enthusiasm that they create. Yet again I'm struggling to find words -- the shorts are funnier, the features are more touching, and I wouldn't have missed any one of them. The landscapes of my mind's eye have become peopled by a positive kaleidoscope of Busters, tumbling, leaping, hapless or inspired, resigned to the inevitable but endlessly alert to the passing balletic chance. I've roared with laughter and gasped in surprise and had my heart melted in sympathy; I've marvelled at his athletics and been astounded at the range of his acting. In short, in the space of twenty-odd films and the passage of a month, I have simply become an utter Buster Keaton addict.

"Haunted House" I particularly liked -- better, in fact, than "The Electric House" with which it is unfavourably compared, merely because the structure of the latter is comic-strip predictable: gadgets introduced, gadgets go wrong. "Haunted House" has the lunatic juxtapositions that are Keaton's craft at its best, as his hero gets mixed up with bank robbers, opera singers and a counterfeiters' conspiracy -- the sheer ingenuity and variety of the jokes that can be based around a single staircase had the audience in stitches, as every time we thought we knew what was going to happen, Buster came up with a fresh approach to the problem!

The film has been dismissed as consisting merely of two disjointed halves, but "Sherlock Jr" -- where the famous dream sequence is almost totally without effect on the main plot -- demonstrates that this is no drawback. Certainly in the case of "Haunted House" one would not wish to lose either part. The introductory sequence, where Buster inadvertently finds himself in a position to save the day, only to become a scapegoat, is classic Keaton comedy. The second part takes the place of the extended chase to which such a plot line would normally lead, with all the parties converging on the same booby-trapped building to terrify the wits out of each other... until, that is, Buster's "little idiot", dismissed by the villains as harmless, is the one to work out what's going on.

This development, of course, enables Keaton to have the best of both worlds, milking the comic possibilities first of his character's horror and then of his blasé scepticism -- one rightly-renowned sequence is where he steps in to take control of the spook 'traffic'! Even self-possession and preparation, however, aren't necessarily going to help him with that staircase...

In the space of its brief twenty minutes, this surreal short film features an amazing trick photography shot, some classic sticky mime, deadpan titles, long-running gags with a multiple twist, the cloak of Mephistopheles, a celestial fantasy, plus a bonus ten-second seduction of Buster -- what's not to love? ;-)


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