Friday, January 28, 2022

A Thief Catcher (USA, 1914)

 In the first years of Keystone Studios (founded in 1912 in California, USA) we could see a plenty of one reelers and it did not take long until the studio forged its own identity with the Keystone Cops, the Bathing Beauties, Fatty Arbuckle, the sweet and bold Mabel Normand and even a very young Charlie Chaplin and his little tramp. Actually, many comedians who would become famous later started working at Keystone studios to the point of the following sentence being made: “Start with Sennett, get rich somewhere else”.

Ford Sterling was very popular among audiences of the era, usually in the roles of mustached villains and ready to make the lives of other characters hell on Earth. Many of his films are lost nowadays but luckily The Thief Catcher was founded in 2010. Today it's not remembered due to Sterling but because Charlie Chaplin played a bit role as a villain.

The film has a very simple plot and it is quite easy to be understood by audiences of any era. It started with the incompetent Keystone cops, who could barely take care of themselves let alone facing criminals. Those characters were an opportunity for making films laughing at authority figures and were very successful among working classes of the first decades of the XX century. 

The Keystone cops were told about some crooks and a certain “suspicious John“ (played by Ford sterling himself) is shown holding a dog. The crooks started to beat each other and one of them is thrown downhill. John saw it and the remaining crooks ran after him. John, followed by his faithful dog, decided to hide himself in a household where a woman was hanging clothes. Someone was trapped on the clothes being hanged and was caught by the crooks, but unfortunately the person was the woman who was hanging the clothes, not John. The woman promptly kicked the guys out of her house while John was hidden with his dog nearby.

However, peace would not last for too long because somebody threw water on John and the crooks were still looking after him and they had guns. After leaving his hideout, John took refuge in an abandoned wooden house, with the crooks always on a short distance from him. The crooks ended up finding John. While one of crooks was trying to kill John, the other one was waiting outside the house, but then it came the Keystone Cops. John’s dog was also outside and dig a hole below the fence and found John, who wrote a note and left it on the dog’s leash. Thinking that nothing particularly bad was going on, the cops left the house.

The cops returned to the police station and the chase between John and the crooks still went on. But the dog went to the police station and the cops noticed the note with the dog and read it. After realizing there was someone in danger in the house, they returned with the dog leading their way. This gave room with a typical car chase involving the Keystone cops while John was kneeling down in the house, begging for his life.

Finally, the cops returned and it was the turn of the crooks to start hiding themselves and John, in an attempt to defend himself, beat up the cops by mistake and then the film end with him and one of the cops fainting in the most exaggerated way.