The Rat's Knuckles, a short from early in Charley Chase's career when he was starring in one-reel comedies as "Jimmie Jump" veers off from his usual style of working in heavy elements of comedy of embarrassment, and seems to delve right into the realm of surrealism. Charley is the inventor of "The Humane Mousetrap" and eager to impress his girlfriend "Flirty" McFickle (whose character is ever to subtly hinted at in her name) and make it big. This leads us into a wild fantasy sequence that takes up about a third or more of the film with flights of fantasy and mockery of the rich celebrity impresario type that that Jimmie wants to be.
Martha Sleeper, as Jimmie's girlfriend, gets a couple of great comedy sequences all to herself and she does extremely well with them, as well as having great comedy chemistry with Charley himself. She's adorable and a perfect leading lady in these shorts.
The rest of the film meanders us through a no less dreamlike sequence of very funny scenes that follow from Jimmie's invention. As he shows it to a financing agency we get the brilliant double gag of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" on Jimmy's business card, then later the sight of that line being the only thing that actually stops the financier from shooting him right in the office.
In the end, after Jimmy discover Flirty's shocking true and and has had his invention rejected and so has of course decided to commit suicide, there is another wonderful pair of jokes that I won't wherein we discover how the humane mousetrap actually works, and see a passing good Samaritan's reaction to it.
It's hard to describe this film; unlike most of Chase's it seems to exist in a bizarre surrealistic dreamworld where men carry obedient mice in their pockets, streetlights fall over at a touch, and whole restaurants jump simultaneously at the sight of a rat. Most importantly it is hilarious through and through and bursting with creative comic energy.
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