Monday, December 9, 2013

Crossed Love and Swords (USA, 1915)

This comedy has really stood the test of time and still stands out today. Being grounded on absurd and nonsense situations, it can still make people laugh. One of best performances of the film is delivered by Al St. John, the highly acrobatic nephew of famous Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was very different from his uncle not only physically, but also in comedic style. Having a steady career in silent-era comedies, he also made a name for himself in westerns during the talkie era.
The film starts in a party where social climbers gather, as it says one of intertitles. After some weird dancing and matrimonial arguments, we see Al St. John, who becomes instantly popular among the women at the party. 

However, regardless of how good Al St. John is in the film, the acting of a great scene-stealer, and one of the most menacing creatures ever produced by a film, must be emphasized. There is no Frankenstein, there is no Dracula, there is Fido, the poodle. Lol! The dog was owned by the always-competent Louise Fazenda, a sophisticated woman to whom both Al St. John and his “bossom friend” are attracted. Apparently their attraction for the same woman shakes their friendship and Fido was the victim of St. John’s friend rage after he realized that his friend was being too friendly with the woman he liked. 

Fido embodied very well the old comedic joke of the coward who got to succeed in his adversities due to luck and good intentions. Fido’s complete helpless look while the craziest situations happened around him added some more laughs to the scenes, specially when he shivered and stood on his rear paws. 

The dog was unfortunately caught in the fight of two friends for the love of Fazenda and ended up being put adrift. Then, the film starts getting even more bizarre when hostilities peak into a duel with swords while poor little Fido was all alone on the lake trying to fight for his life. After a crazy duel involving swords on men’s butts and some attempted cheating, Fido is finally found and the guys are called to save the poor little poodle before it’s too late. 

The dog was found shivering, on his rear paws, wet, and looking as if he would fall apart at any moment. This is perhaps the funniest moment of the film. And the worst was about to happen: Fido was at the point of being attacked by a crocodile. Fortunately, both Fazenda’s suitors get to jump in the lake and save the dog. Something that is noteworthy is the fact that although those men swam and spent some time on the water, their fake moustaches bravely resisted and did not fall off. They were probably quite well-attached to their faces.
All in all, with a competent gag and a comedy focused on quite crazy situations and the acting of an excellent and funny dog, this is a fine example of a film by Keystone studios at its top form.

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