Slapstick Encyclopedia, Volume 9: The Race is On

Welcome to the ninth installment of TMP’s Slapstick Encyclopedia series! Today we’ll be taking a look at four films centering around the theme “The Race is On.” Though the title of this volume refers to the race between studios to churn out the greatest two-reelers, these four films also all happen to include racing or chasing scenes of some sort.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Water Wagons (1925)
Directed by: Del Lord
Starring: Andy Clyde, Madeline Hurlock and Sidney Smith
Run time: 17 minutes
Andy Clyde takes on two roles in this sea-faring comedy — one leading, and one small role as a drunken fisherman. The film takes place at a yacht race, and if that’s not enough racing for you, there’s also a car chase, a motorcycle chase and a pursuit inside of a train car. This little gem brings a lot of laughs. A very lively pace and a score* (with fun sound effects) to match, keeping the viewer excited to be watching it. Madeline Hurlock gives a really stellar performance as Clyde’s trouble-making daughter.

*The music for this print of the film was recorded by Robert Israel on a nifty Fotoplayer piano.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Out Bound (1924)
Directed by: Harry Edwards
Starring: Sid Smith, Cliff Bowes and Virginia Vance
Run time: 14 minutes
According to the introduction to this film, a theater manager from Norwich, Kansas wrote after the release of this film that “patrons howled with glee” while watching it. Needless to say, this set my expectations pretty high as I read the two intro slides just before the film began. While it didn’t quite leave me “howling,” Out Bound didn’t disappoint either. There are some corny jokes in the title cards (which I loved, of course). There’s a really great race scene between a bicycle and a car, and an equally funny skit involving a bed that’s hanging over a cliff, precariously perched on some sort of construction truck.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Chasing Choo-Choos (1927)
Directed by: Joseph Henabury
Starring: Monty Banks
Run time: 21 minutes
This is a shortened version of the film Play Safe, featuring only the climax of that film. Though the introduction to this entry in the volume states that the climax received better reception than the film on the whole, watching this clipped version made me want to watch Play Safe in full. The story’s fun to watch and the performances are even better. I got quite a few laughs out of Chasing Choo-Choos. There’s a hint of dark comedy to be had amongst the slapstick. The train scene is truly phenomenal, too. Cute puppy bonus.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Danger Ahead (1926)
Directed by: Scott Pembroke
Starring: Earl McCarthy
Run time: 20 minutes
Another frantically-paced little film full of nonsense and fun. There are some really great photographic tricks in this one — an early gag includes three full-grown men impossibly hiding behind a telephone pole somehow, and the staging of this scene is very clever. Danger Ahead is just a bundle of fun all around. My favorite on this disc. Solid performances and lots of laughs.

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