Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Chaplin at Keystone

Chaplin_Making_a_Living

Worldcat link:http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/671500970

This collection of Charlie Chaplin’s first year in Hollywood is surprisingly complete – and very interesting. You can see as he refines the persona of the “Little Tramp” and the nuances of his performance, but you can also watch several early experiments that maybe didn’t succeed as brilliantly. Chaplin once said that the three necessary elements of a Keystone comedy were “a girl, a park, and a policeman,” and you will see all three in abundance. Perhaps every movie has at least one of those elements, many have two, but really less than half have all three. In general, camera moves are rare, and intercutting is minimal, but there is an interesting ability of the different scenes to interact with one another, as Charlie throws a brick out of camera range in one shot, only to have his adversary duck it in the next shot, and finally in a third shot it collides with a hapless policeman or innocent bystander. Includes Chaplin’s first movie as “the Little Tramp:” “Kid Auto Races at Venice” as well as “Mabel at the Wheel” and “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” and many more. And, yes, for those who were curious, the policemen were frequently played by the famous “Keystone Kops,” who at various times were rivals with Chaplin as comic stars.

Fantômas – in the Shadow of the Guillotine (1913)

Fantomas_early_film_poster

Director: Louis Feuillade

This early French feature kicked off a series of popular “Fantômas” crime films. Here, the cunning criminal steals from and murders members of the nobility in a posh hotel, escaping despite all security precautions and leaving a mysterious calling card. He is pursued by the brilliant Inspector Juve of the Surete, but manages to stay one step ahead of him through his exploits. Unlike American thrillers of the time, the filmmakers increase the suspense by not giving away the identity of the criminal right off. Once it does happen, though, the action shifts to his daring plan to escape from police captivity and a death sentence. Fantômas appears to me to be a kind of anti-hero, someone the audiences rooted for in spite of themselves, because he was so subtle and sly, and ultimately charming, even though he put hurt innocent people for his own selfish ends. The DVD from Kino includes a powerful orchestral score, which at times threatens to drown out the silent action on the screen, but does add to the watchability, in general. The director, Louis Feuillade, made hundreds of films in the 1900s and teens (including “Les Vampires” and “Judex“), many of which are blessed with considerable cinematic vision.

Run Time: 54 min (this episode. Total run time for serial = 335 min)

You can watch it for free: here

Original novel is: here