Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Counter Jumper - 1922

Country: United States
Language: English
Director: Larry Semon
Writer: Larry Semon (story)
Stars: Larry Semon, Lucille Carlisle and Oliver Hardy
Release Date: 9 December 1922 (USA)
Production Co: Larry Semon Productions, Vitagraph Company of America
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Comedy | Short
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 'counter jumper' was the term used in both Britain and the U.S.A. to describe the lowest dogsbody clerk in a general store or emporium. Here, Semon is employed in that capacity in an Old West general store that caters for desperate characters. As usual for Semon, most of the gag set-ups are deeply contrived and implausible. We get here not one but two separate sequences in which randomly splattered stains just happen to resemble a human face. One of those sequences involves a stereotypical cowardly Negro. I've never found that sort of humour funny. Earlier in the film, a brief glimpse of character actor Jack Duffy grimacing in his usual old-man disguise was much funnier. Duffy was a handsome young man who lost all his teeth at an early age, and (in heavy makeup) he played toothless old codgers. I wish he'd had a bigger role in this movie.
This being a Larry Semon comedy, the general store is filled with crates and pottery which are stacked in utterly implausible patterns, ensuring that Semon's headlong collision with ONE piece of merchandise will cause dozens of objects to hurtle floorward. Plot line? Well, if you insist. Lucille Carlisle (very chic here, and actually a good actress) owns a valuable necklace which is nicked by sneering villain Oliver Hardy. Semon pursues Hardy over hill and dale to retrieve it.
At the climax of the film, there's one exciting overhead shot: the camera points straight down at Semon and Hardy brawling in the sagebrush, the viewpoint revealing that they're at the edge of a very steep cliff and in danger of rolling off it. Sounds good so far, but keep reading. Semon's comedies were notorious for extremely implausible slapstick, filmed with blatantly obvious fakery. Eventually, Semon picks up the much larger and heavier Hardy and flings him over the cliff. This being a Semon film, Hardy is unhurt. Then Semon dives off the same cliff; he too lands unhurt. 

No comments:

Post a Comment