Carl Schenstrøm and Harald Madsen were the leading pair of 'Fat and Skinny' comedians in the movie world until Laurel and Hardy came along. While their characters never shed their movie-comic trappings -- ill fitting costumes, weird mustaches and bad hats -- they remained enormously popular and continued making films until 1940 -- two years after their first and best director, Lau Lauritzen Sr. died and two years before Schenstrom, the skinny one died.
Kinowelt, which has had success with its Laurel & Hardy DVD set has produced a seven-DVD set of the comedies, under the title "Pat und Patachon", the names they were known under in Germany. I have issues. The versions are cut down (this one is 48 minutes instead of theo original run time of 179 minutes) and a voice over tells you what is going on -- in German, which, alas, I do not speak. These are apparently TV versions made in the late 1960s or early 1970s and it is difficult to judge what is missing -- although a lot of the continuity is definitely lost.
It is particularly lost here, when about 70% of the movie is cut out. Nonetheless, this is a pretty good silent version of Cervantes' novel. Carl Schenstrøm is well cast as Don Quixote and Harald Madsen makes a fine Sancho Panza. Their makeup and outfits are different from their usual clown garb. Schenstrøm has an old man's hawk nose and Madsen actually has hair and a substantial beard. The special effects, which show you what Don Quixote sees, are particularly good. When the windmills turn into twisted giants, they look terrifying.
One interesting point is that the point of view shifts towards the end, from Don Quixote to Sancho Panza. It produces a greater sense of sympathy in the viewer.
Of course, it is well nigh impossible to state how the original movie played. Cutting out more than two thirds of a story reduces it to a few highlights. Nonetheless, the two actors acquit themselves well. As someone once noted, if you can play comedy, you can simply slow it down for a fine dramatic turn. This movie is a good example of that.
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