Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Gusher (USA,1913)

Exaggerated gestures, fake mustaches, simple plots, one-reelers (films that lasted around 11 minutes), actors falling on their butts, scenes with lots of smoke, and actresses performing their own stunts were a commonplace in films produced in the first years of Keystone studios. 
The studio was founded the previous year and we can see a relatively small number of studio regulars in comparison with subsequent years. Mabel Normand and Ford Sterling (among others, like Fred Mace, Mack Sennett himself and Roscoe `Fatty` Arbuckle as of 1913) had worked in Keystone studios since the beginning and were quite popular among audiences.
The Gusher is a story about a young Mabel Normand who has two suitors (Ford Sterling and Charles Inslee) and has to choose one of them (Ford Sterling). As revenge, the rejected suitor made up a plan to sell bad land of an oil field to Mabel`s sweetheart. Sterling ended up actually buying the land, only to listen right afterwards that it was not a real oil well. He was devastated (which only increased his overacting) and, to make matters worse, Sterling even caught the rejected suitor (Charles Inslee) trying to seduce Normand. 
However, in the middle of all despair, the field started to actually produce oil and Sterling became wealthy enough to marry Mabel. The rejected suitor set fire to the field while the wedding was being held. A man told Sterling about it in the middle of the celebration and chaos ensued when everyone present at the wedding (including the bride and groom) went to the field on fire. The Keystone Cops were called to solve the situation, even though they were not very smart themselves, as we all know. We can see it by the fact that the cops kept repeatedly falling on the ground without any apparent reason. 
It turned out that Sterling himself got to find the rejected suitor and punish him. But the field was still on fire at the end of the film and no one had even attempted to control it, not even the firefighters were called. 
The end was weak and left audiences in the dark about some very crucial points. For instance: Did Sterling got to recover his oil field and keep on earning money with it? It is also not known if the rejected suitor was arrested and it seemed that he got to leave the scene of crime, despite being caught by Sterling. It is a one-reeler, but the plot could have been better developed without even adding extra time to the film or only adding a few minutes more. 
Something different added in this film was an oil field. It seems that the plot could have been merely an excuse to use the stock footage of an oil field on fire, but the different setting gives a touch of originality to the film anyway.
It is worth paying attention not only to the technology of the 1910ies, but also to the glimpse of both female and male fashion that this film provides.