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The Extraordinary Waiter (1902)

A Swiss tourist knocks the head off a negro waiter.

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A Swiss tourist knocks the head off a negro waiter.

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Genres:

Short | Comedy

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December 1902 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Mysterious Heads  »

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1.33 : 1
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Takes a Licking but Keeps on Ticking
4 October 2014 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

While ex-stage magician Georges Melies was perfecting the trick film in France, across the Channel, ex-stage magician Walter Booth was also perfecting the trick film in Britain. Although they often used the same plots and tricks, so much so that it was sometimes hard to tell who had first done what, Booth's films often showed conservative, music-hall attitudes that Melies' did not... or perhaps Melies' French roots seem more modern more than a century later.

In this one, a gentleman in a pith helmet orders a meal and attacks his slovenly Black waiter. It's apparent that the point of the film is the knockabout farce and the fact that the gentleman rips off body parts and tromps on the waiter without doing any lasting damage. Clearly this is accomplished by stopping the camera and substituting a dummy temporarily.

At least I hope so. To the contemporary audience, this would have been a version of a knockabout stage skit, made outrageous in its ferocity by movie magic. Nowadays, we would reserve our outrage for the then-current stereotypes.


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