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The Oily American (1954)
Me smell Mohican burning... ME last Mohican... Must be ME!!!!
Hilarious cartoon about an oil-rich Indian's daily hunt gone wrong. The title to my rant is my favorite line from the 'toon, said after the sneaky moose Moe Hican's chasing gives the Indian a hotfoot! Many great gags in this 'toon! I hope that Warner Bros. sees fit to include this in one of their "Golden Collection" DVD sets soon. It's VERY mildly "politically incorrect", but it's a fine example of the perfect comic timing of the crew at Warner Bros, and nothing like some of the racially insensitive 'toons that they sometimes made, like the ones with "Inki", an extremely stereotyped black tribesman. I just hope the law advisers at Warner Brothers can see the difference.
The General (1926)
Great stuff from the MASTER!
I just saw a beautifully restored print of "The General" tonight, complete with live theatre-organ accompaniment, at the refurbished Elsinore Theatre in Salem, OR.
Why do I mention the theatre? Just to make a point... Silent movies are best-enjoyed in the correct environment, with live-performed musical accompaniment. Those of you who have only been able to see this or other silents at home on your TV with pre-recorded music have seen only half the film. If you ever get a chance to see a silent film shown properly, DO IT! You will NOT regret it! Okay, off my soap-box... "The General" is simply a masterpiece! The timing and setup of the gags is superb, the story (inspired by an actual Civil War event) is believable and intelligent. Keaton made sure that everything looked and felt as realistic as possible, using photographs by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, paintings, histories, everything he could get a hold of.
Overall, most of the film is sort of a slow-motion chase, with plenty of funny gags along the way; despite the film's length, it never has a slow moment.
Unlike most silent-era comics, Buster's acting was subtle and underplayed. While he's known as "The Great Stoneface", emotions show up through the apparently-still face. For example, there's the time when the men in Annabelle's family are rushing to enlist, Buster is left sitting there, interrupted from his attempts to romance her. After they leave to enlist, she gives him a withering "Well??" look, and you can easily read his quizzical look, even though there's almost no movement or gesture.
I gave this classic a 10, only because I couldn't give it an 11.
Our Hospitality (1923)
Beautiful effort from the King
This fine film represents one of the earlier attempts at "dramedy", long before the term was invented. The story has a highly realistic feel to it, yet the funny stuff is never far away.
The film does start a bit slowly as they set up the story, but things pick up quickly once the funny (but true, from an old photo) shot of 1810 Times Square hits the screen.
The little train which takes Buster to Kentucky is a hoot, and THAT is based on the real 1830's deal, too. Movable, bumpy, flimsy tracks and a couple nutty characters and situations are highlights.
My favorite bit in the whole film, though, is when poor Buster realizes the fabulous mansion he thought he was inheriting turned out to be a broken-down shack, ending his dreams in spectacularly explosive fashion.
The story was strong and believable, and the climactic (and very dangerous) scenes at the river and waterfall were amazing. As a matter of fact, these scenes are so impressive, it's easy to forget that they are funny; this is the only reason for me to not give the movie a 10.
Side note to those who have said the poor soundtrack detracted from the film: If you EVER have the opportunity to see this or other silent movies in their proper environment (A glorious movie palace with live musical accompaniment by theatre organ or an orchestra), DO it! The "half-live, half-canned" aspect is very important to the enjoyment of silents. It also keeps any film you've seen many times (as is often the case with "The General" or "Phantom") fresh. Even the same organist doesn't play the same film the same way every time, and a different organist can accompany the film in such a different way that it can almost fool you into thinking you're seeing a new movie.
I'm one of those lucky enough to have done so and there's nothing quite like it.
Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925)
Silly, funny, cartoonlike stuff!
Of the silent comedies without an "A-List" comic in it, this is one of the better examples of the loony style of the slapstick era.
I've seen it many times, due to knowing a collector, but it's been years, so I'm a bit sketchy on the details, but the idea is that a guy comes up with the idea to get rid of expensive gasoline by using radio waves to power the country's cars. [A little background; "Super Heterodyne" was an early name for the technology of transmitting radio signals, hence the title of this spoof]
Everything seems to be going well, as cars all over town are hooked up with special radio antennas that communicate with the central transmitter. Then, all HECK breaks loose when lightning strikes the transmitter, giving WAY too much power to hundreds of cars, all at once!
The predictable yet hilarious physical comedy that ensues provides an excellent look at the kind of comedy movie audiences worldwide were enjoying in 1925!
It is awful hard to find silent movies presented properly with LIVE musical accompaniment by theatre organ, piano, or orchestra these days, but the experience, should you find a show, is WELL worth it!
Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
Solid tribute to Looney classics!
I consider this the best of the live/animation "combo" films, even better than Roger Rabbit (good, but overrated).
The plot was a stretch, but talking animals are, too (Heck, I barely remember the story, and loved the flick, so I guess the plot's not really the point here).
Reminders of all the classic Looney gags abounded throughout, at a dizzying pace. I laughed out loud a LOT. the movie was loud, fast, and just plain FUNNY!
Some were very subtle, too, such as the use of Mel Blanc's "jalopy" sound for the Gremlin while none of the actors made any direct reference to the car's sound at any point. After all, don't ALL beat-up cars sound like Jack Benny's Maxwell?
The movie was not perfect:
Most of the human actors, esp. Brendan Fraser, were stretched to the limits of their meager talents when trying to "blend in" with the Toons. An exception was Jenna Elfman, who handled all this quite naturally (and looked great, too!)
Steve Martin was AWFUL as the villain at ACME!
However, To me, these quirks are far outweighed by the high quality of the rest of the film. Of course, I wasn't there to see the humans anyway!
I dropped an 8 into the ratings doohickey, and will be buying this DVD as soon as it appears on my store shelves.
My Mother the Car (1965)
One of my faves!
This hilarious, slapsticky show was probably expected to be a hit by the TV execs, based on the recent success of such movies as "The Great Race", "Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines", and others. Somehow, viewers never caught on, and the show died quietly, becoming an instant industry joke. I'll never understand why, though. Everyone in it was funny, esp. Avery Schreiber as a Mack Sennett-like, mustache-twiddling, posing, crazy villain, always trying to steal the car, but never even getting close. This is one show I'd like to see in reruns.
The Bakery (1921)
Hilarious "pure" slapstick!
Larry Semon is, sadly, likely the most historically overlooked of all the "silent clowns".
Critics panned his films later in his career, due to his refusal to change from tried-and-true slapstick formulas, and he was soon forgotten in the public eye after he died too young of tuberculosis.
Also, whomever may get a chance to actually see one of his flicks, be warned they are often not "PC" in today's world, containing racial stereotypes, etc.
"The Bakery" is pure fun from the start, with pies, lard, soot, food, flour, and whatever else happens to be handy flying thruout! This silly romp is very worth seeing, if you can find it (a very hard thing to do).
The Freshman (1925)
A genuine classic... Rockne-esque comedy!
"The Freshman" is a truly funny sports movie... And those are HARD to find! Harold is a nerdy freshman college student, who thinks that college life is JUST like it is in "the movies". He finds out differently once he arrives on campus and soon becomes the campus laughing-stock, so he tries to make the football team and prove everybody wrong.
His pathetic attempts to make the team, and the other goings-on make this fabulous "flicker" one that all film buffs should see!
If you've never seen a "silent", this is a great place to start, because it is easier than most for the neophyte to follow the story because, like most of Lloyd's films, the pacing and story-telling are more modern than most, and the humor seems easier to pick up than a lot of other silent movies.
If you ever get the chance to see this or any other silent movie shown PROPERLY (in an old-time movie palace with live musical accompaniment), DO IT! You will NOT regret the experience!