Slapstick Encyclopedia, Volume 10: The Anarchic Fringe

Today we’re taking a look at the final volume of the Slapstick Encyclopedia! It’s been a long journey, but a very fun one to finish watching this set of over 50 silent comedy gems.

Stay tuned next week for one final post wrapping up TMP’s Slapstick Encyclopedia journey. Until then, let’s enjoy our final six films, themed “The Anarchic Fringe.”

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

Yukon Jake (1924)
Directed by: Del Lord
Starring: Ben Turpin
Run time: 21 minutes
TMP worlds are colliding with this film, which would be a perfect fit for the Lindsey Tries to Appreciate Westerns series had I not already been reviewing it in the Encyclopedia. And appreciate it, I sure do. This is actually one of my favorites from any volume of the set. Ben Turpin is great and there’s plenty of horseback-ridin’, gun-slingin’ action to be had here. The scene where Turpin is carried by his horse, the split-screen North/South imagery, the sliding snow-shelters and wagging hat-tails were my favorite bits in the film, though I found the whole thing to be great fun.

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

Three of a Kind (1926)
Directed by: Harry Sweet
Starring: Hilliard Karr, Frank Alexander and “Kewpie” Ross
Run time: 23 minutes
The introduction to this film states that it shows a shift toward story-based comedy rather than action-based. There’s still a bit of action here, but for the most part the introduction’s statement stands. This film had a little bit of trouble keeping my attention, but it does have a number of amusing moments. The trio of Karr, Alexander and Ross are a fun group to watch together. The “war” between them and the wait staff is a highlight, as is the hula scene near the end.

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

Dry and Thirsty (1921)
Directed by: Craig Hutchinson
Starring: Billy Bletcher and Vera Reynolds
Run time: 12 minutes
CUTE PUPPY BONUS and a really fun performance by Billy Bletcher, who also wrote the film. He’s a man on the hunt for liquor, and in that hunt he has some hilarious encounters with people he thinks can provide him with liquor, including a couple of thoroughly modern ladies. Most of his attempts are unsuccessful, and he has run-ins with the cops as well as the ladies.

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

Family Life (1924)
Directed by: Bob Kerr
Starring: Mark Jones and Ruth Hiatt
Run time: 20 minutes
According to the introduction, this film is a part of producer Jack White’s “Mermaid Comedies” series, which was incredibly popular and ran from 1920 – 1930. This comedy moves at a mile a minute and deals mostly with comic home/family “disasters.” There’s some cop “drama,” too (see the above screencap). My favorite gags include the neighbors constantly crashing through the walls of each others homes and a puppy floating away when balloons are tied to its back. The performances are good and the story is a hoot — you can’t ask for much more in a slapstick short. Bonus points for the cute puppy and the use of sepia tone.

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

Now You Tell One (1926)
Directed by: Charles R. Bowers and Harold L. Muller
Starring: Charles R. Bowers
Run time: 20 minutes
I’d never seen a Charley Bowers film before watching this one, but my curiosity was piqued when the introduction on the DVD compared him to Buster Keaton, describing him as “deadpan, disarming and equipped with a bag of ingenious tricks.” As for the story of this film, it’s all about liars. The plot centers around a group of men who have formed a Liar’s Club, and they all get together to award the man who can tell the greatest, most fascinating lie. With so many tall tales being told, Now You Tell One is an exciting little watch, and I do get hints of Keaton from Bowers’ performance. There are some very cool special effects in this one, too — including a bunch of cats growing out of a plant!

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

The Grocery Clerk (1920)
Directed by: Larry Semon
Starring: Larry Semon and Lucile Carlisle
Run time: 27 minutes
Ever the triple-threat, Larry Semon wrote this film in addition to directing and starring in it. This is the type of film that throws one gag after another at the audience, focusing more on bringing the laughs than forming a cohesive story… but that’s completely okay, since quite a few of the laughs are landed successfully. I wouldn’t consider this one of my favorites from ‘The Anarchic Fringe’ but it does show off Larry Semon’s talents well.

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