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When a magician, Mordini (Lynton Brent) becomes fearful of his magic secrets being stolen, he hires Buster (Buster Keaton) and Elsie (Elsie Anes) to protect his props. They discover what they assume to be a murder and go into action as amateur detectives, without realizing they are the victims of one of the magician's tricks. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Poor Buster Keaton -- he has to be married to the irritating Elsie Ames in this Columbia short comedy. Unfortunately it's my least favorite so far of the Columbia shorts that Keaton appeared in. Buster and Elsie are hired as caretakers of a magician's house, and that means the film will be filled with all sorts of contrived prop comedy and shots of the featured players looking scared. It becomes monotonous, as every attempt at humor is spoiled: the reason for the incongruous element of every gag is telegraphed way ahead, and there's no surprise when it is revealed. Anything can happen, because it can be explained away as a magic trick. The scare reactions don;t even work as well as they should (which isn't too well) because it's hard to believe anyone could be scared by what we're seeing.
As a Laurel and Hardy fan, this film reminds me of one of that team's worst pictures, "A-Haunting We Will Go:" both early-forties films where the stars are stuck with doing endless reactions to unfunny magic jokes. Buster Keaton plays everything well, but there's absolutely nothing that feels specific to Buster Keaton in the material. Actually, my favorite moment came with Buster's delivery slightly stunned reaction when a jug of alcohol seems to be playing music: "Oh, it's just a musical... jug?" Sadly another opportunity for comedy is lost when the prop turns out to be an actual musical jug, apparently a trick designed by the magician.
It's not actually painful to watch and doesn't last long, but Keaton fans could probably do better with, well, any other Buster Keaton film.
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