Monday, January 26, 2015

Luke's Movie Muddle (1916)

Typically rough, knockabout early Harold Lloyd "Lonesome Luke" one-reeler, with Luke running a movie house. The cinema setting provides a fun backdrop for the comedy, with Luke finding time to flirt with his pretty female customers while interacting with a parade of eccentric moviegoers who cause him no end of trouble.

Snub Pollard -- Lloyd's frequent co-star in these early comedies and later a star in his own right -- lends fine comic support as the projectionist, and there is a clever moment when Pollard furiously overcranks the projector, causing the film-within-the-film to race by breathlessly. Generally, though, the gags feel routine and uninspired, showing no real flashes of the brilliant construction that would mark Lloyd's mature work. Lloyd was cranking these comedies out at a staggering rate while still learning the craft and developing his character. He was still basically aping Chaplin at this stage of his career; despite superficial differences (a split mustache, a loose-fitting jacket), many of the mannerisms and gestures are reminiscent of Chaplin. It would be another year or so before he'd find the character that was to become his trademark, and another year or two after that before he really found his style as both a performer and filmmaker. Early shorts like this provided Lloyd with his training ground, and can still hold surprises in their fast-and-furious gagging.

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