When a mysterious figure appears to cause a series of disruptions at the Frisbie Home in New York, word goes out to Scotland Yard that the Fuzz-Faced Phantom is at work. Soon, Charley ... See full summary »
Charley invents a machine that turns ordinary, breakable eggs into rubbery, unbreakable ones for transport. He builds a Rube Goldberg contraption of parts stolen from his neighbors. Rival ... See full summary »
A traveller arrives at the Usher mansion to find that the sibling inhabitants, Roderick and Madeline Usher, are living under a mysterious family curse: Roderick's senses have become ... See full summary »
James Sibley Watson,
A montage of the skyscrapers of Manhattan opens with a succession of stationary views of the upper portions of numerous buildings. This is followed by a wide variety of fluid shots, which ... See full summary »
Arrival in the Bronx is shown with a view from an elevated train as it enters the city. Then follows a montage of sights from the Bronx. Many typical neighborhood activities are shown, along with scenes from many local businesses.
When a mysterious figure appears to cause a series of disruptions at the Frisbie Home in New York, word goes out to Scotland Yard that the Fuzz-Faced Phantom is at work. Soon, Charley MacNeesha and his assistant MacGregor are sent across the ocean to investigate. But even as they arrive at the home, a new series of weird events begins. Written by
One of the 50 films in the 3-disk boxed DVD set called "More Treasures from American Film Archives, 1894-1931" (2004), compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 5 American film archives. This film is preserved by the George Eastman House, has a running time of 19 minutes and an added music score. See more »
If you've never seen Charley Bowers before, here's a great place to start an acquaintance: of all his surviving works, There It Is stands as the fastest, funniest, and most outlandish. Most of Bowers' movies feature impressive stop-motion animation and bizarre special effects, sometimes presented as dream sequences or brief fantasy interludes, but in this film the madness is unconfined, and in the end there's only a half-hearted attempt to explain it all away. From the opening shot There It Is is jam-packed with frightening-yet-funny imagery suggestive of the early "trick films" of Georges Méliès and Ferdinand Zecca, but it also prefigures the more self-conscious, provocative Avant-Gard surrealism of Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau. Unlike the latter filmmakers I don't believe Bowers was especially interested in shocking the bourgeoisie, and yet I get the sense he wasn't just playing for laughs, either. The work of Charley Bowers is funny, but it's funny in a way that startles and disturbs the viewer, and although you may laugh you may also feel a little uneasy.
At any rate, this superlative essay in weirdness is set (or so we're told) at "the mysterious Frisbee home," where serenity has been shattered by a series of strange occurrences. The cook cracks open an egg from which a fully-grown chicken emerges; the butler sees a pair of trousers dancing atop his dresser; and strangest of all, the Fuzz-Faced Phantom makes frequent, inexplicable appearances-- sometimes on wheels --carrying such items as a hat-rack, a broom, a rifle, boxing gloves, or a chunk of ice. The objects aren't strange in themselves, but the phantom himself is an alarming piece of work. The vexed family calls Scotland Yard to investigate. I was delighted to find that, here anyway, Scotland Yard consists of a small yard where the detectives are kilted Scotsmen who march in a tight circle playing bagpipes. (This is Scotland Yard as my inner six year-old wants it to be.) Summoned to the Frisbee home, our hero brings along his assistant, a bug named MacGregor who lives in a match-box. Of course, MacGregor must first retrieve his toothbrush, which is considerably bigger than he is.
Just when you're thinking the tone is on the verge of turning cutesy, however, Charley arrives at the Frisbee home and all hell breaks loose. Or, to be more precise, wild cartoon-like gags are unleashed at a rapid-fire tempo. Paintings come alive within their frames, a child's wagon vanishes through the wall, the cuckoo clock is invaded by a cat (who takes over the cuckoo's job), the telephone rises into the air and turns rubbery, and through it all the Phantom's entrances and exits accelerate. Charley goes to bed and wakes up dangling over the bathtub. MacGregor the animated bug is practically reduced to playing straight man in this setting. At the finale, an "explanation" is offered for some of these phenomena but it doesn't explain a thing, and we don't care: this freaky experience has been entirely too much fun for explanations.
There It Is has recently become available as part of a DVD box set called "More Treasures from American Film Archives." It's a terrific set, and this comedy is one of several gems in the collection. All of Charley Bowers' other surviving movies have been collected and made available in a two-disc set called "Charley Bowers: The Discovery of an American Comic Genius." The over all quality level of Bowers' work is somewhat erratic, but the best of his comedies (such as Now You Tell One and It's a Bird) are delightful, and this film definitely ranks with his most accomplished efforts.
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