Monday, June 6, 2016
For Better - But Worse (USA,1915)
A typical film by Keystone studio with misunderstandings, chases, the Keystone cops, flirting, a park and physical gags, but it is as hilarious nowadays as it was 100 years ago. Although the Keystone studios was active for 21 years (from 1912 to 1933) with a wide range of comedies, from one reelers to feature length films and from rough slapstick to situational comedies, this studio became more famous for its output in 1910ies, which usually included the aforementioned elements.
The police chief had a beautiful daughter and one day, when he said good bye to her and went to work, we could see that in a nearby house a woman ordered her husband to walk their dog. We could see that the woman was rather bossy and that the husband was not exactly happy in his household.
However, the daughter of the police chief had a sweetheart, who left her a note asking her to meet him in the park. The neighbor walked his dog in the park and got enchanted by the girl and, even though he was married, he tried to be too close to the girl. Her sweetheart arrived, saw that the unknown man was making advances towards his girlfriend and kicked the stranger out.
However, the married neighbor did not give up and he hired some tough guys to help him kidnap the girl by putting her in a big bag and run away with her (the gag of kidnapping a girl by throwing her in a big bag would be subsequently repeated in other films by this studio, such as The Grab Bag Bride, shot in 1917, among others). For this purpose, the neighbor left a note in the girl’s house asking him to meet him in the park, pretending it was her boyfriend who left it there.
But the neighbor’s wife found out there was something wrong and went outside looking for her husband and the tough guys approached her, thinking she was the girl and ended up kidnapping the wife by mistake. The girl’s boyfriend saw the kidnapping and he thought it was his girlfriend who had been the victim and he called the police (in this case, the Keystone cops). The girl arrived at the place and, after witnessing all mess, she thought her boyfriend was in danger and a chase involving nearly all characters of the film started.
There was the expected happy ending, with the Keystone cops catching the criminals and causing lots of destruction during the chase. The chase was noteworthy for having involved as many means of transportation as possible, which is a cool historical witness of the modernization of transport in the 1910s, when horses shared the outdoors space with cars and streetcars.
When the chase was over, the married neighbor realized he had kidnapped his own wife by mistake and fainted because he knew there would be serious trouble to him both in and out of home. The girl and her boyfriend were happily reunited and her father to admit that her boyfriend was a brave young man and approve of their relationship.
This film may seem predictable for nowadays’ audiences, but its gags were full of action, innovative and funny for its era and still retain their charm, mostly for the competence of the comedians and the freshness of seeing all those physical gags being performed without stuntmen, grounded on the physical skills of the actors engaging in gags that still relied on improvisation and intuition. This created films with universal appeal, which could be understood by nearly everyone, regardless of culture and it explains why those films are still so funny nowadays.