Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Haunted House

Buster Keaton’s 1921 short stars the actor/director as a New York City bank teller. Keaton being Keaton soon gets into trouble, spilling glue all over the counter and accidentally stopping a robbery before ending up in a haunted house.
The film begins with a shot of 1921 Wall Street. I always like to see exterior shots in silent movies as it’s a rare chance to see the real world as it was back then. The action then goes inside a small bank. One of the funniest moments in this sequence is the sight of a customer with glue on his trousers getting stuck, backside to backside with another bank teller.

The second part of the film takes place in a large house in which counterfeiters have set up shop. This is the funniest part of the film and features a recurring gag about some collapsing stairs which doesn’t get old. The counterfeiters have filled the house with pretend ghosts in order to scare off police and intruders and Keaton finds himself confronted with scare after scare, none of which are really scary but in fact quite funny. We’re talking men with sheets over their heads and others dressed as skeletons. The best part of the second act is two such skeletons who construct a man who appears, through cunning editing to come to life. The film ends with a classic scene which has Keaton receive a blow to the head and climb stairs to heaven. When he gets to the top, the stairs collapse (again) and he plummets into hell. All is well in the end though as when he wakes up in the arms of his love interest.

This isn’t the best Keaton film but I’ve also seen worse. Its well worth checking out and at only 21 minutes won’t take too much time to do so. I laughed about nine or ten times in those 21 minutes which is a very good laugh per minute ratio and much higher than any 21st Century comedy I’ve seen. The film can be watched free on YouTube.  


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