Saturday, September 9, 2017

Help! Help! (USA,1912)

This film was not made at Keystone studios of California, but at Biograph studios of New York, the same that gave D.W. Griffith to the world. The film was directed by Mack Sennett, who in later years would say he learned a lot while working with Griffith at Biograph.  However, while already in Biograph studios, Sennett focused his work in comedies, both as an actor and director and it was where he started honing the comedic pattern that would soon be famous at Keystone studios.
The style of the plot was not the frantic slapstick yet and even Mabel Normand’s acting was different from what she would show at Keystone studios. She played the role of a typical damsel in distress with some touches of overacting, which was something still common in Hollywood at that era. It was portrayed in this film the lifestyle of middle class citizens, rather than working class ones, as it would be so common in Keystone films. 
Mrs. Suburbanite (Mabel Normand) read in a newspaper that burglars were operating in the neighborhood, as one of intertitles says, and she immediately talked about it to her husband because she was really impressed with what she read. Then, Mr. Suburbanite (Mabel’s husband, played by actor Fred Mace) went to his workplace, an office in the city. Meanwhile, Mabel saw some suspicious-looking men and she locked the door and hide the key. 
Mabel called her husband at his office because she thought there were burglars at their house. He left the office by car at once, but unfortunately the car stopped in the middle of the road. At the same time, Mabel was even more afraid at home, as she realized the curtains were moving. The husband got to make the car work again but it ended up stopping on the road again. After a short time, the he got to find another vehicle to take him back home but no success again. Against all odds, the husband got to return home on foot.
As a typical damsel in distress, Mrs. Suburbanite nearly fainted when she realized her husband was back. The happy end was assured when it was found out that the burglar was actually only a small animal.
Some reviewers claim that this film was probably a parody of some previous films by D.W. Griffith, such as The Lonely Villa (USA,1909) and The Lonedale Operator (USA, 1911). The statement makes sense and it could also be a parody of the stereotype of damsels in distress, a spoof that would be included in subsequent films of Keystone studios directed by Mack Sennett, such as Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life (USA,1913). 
Fred Mace followed both Sennett and Mabel to Keystone studios when it was founded in 1912 and made a plenty of films there in the first few years and became a rather popular actor, but his career would not last much longer. Firstly, he left the studio and then returned and finally Mace passed away in 1917 with only 38 years old. 

No comments:

Post a Comment