Thursday, 9 April 2015

1913: Bangville Police

Bangville Police

Now we're getting to the early days of recognisable Hollywood silent comedy. The Keystone company was founded by Mack Sennett only ten months before this film was released in April 1914 and is often cited as being the first Keystone Cops film - however the trademarks aren't all there yet - there are no truckloads of hyperactive uniformed policemen dashing maniacally round the streets of Hollywood. This film is set on a farm, where the farmer's daughter (Mabel Normand) tends the cow and for some reason wishes they had a little calf. Apparently she hasn't noticed there's one on the way so she can't be much use as a farm girl. Anyway, while she's not looking two men - passing vagrants presumably - go into the barn with the aim, it seems, of taking a nap. The girl comes by to check on the cow and sees the men silhouetted against the back window, talking. She takes them for burglars and hides in the house, where she phones the police, an ungainly lot who spend the next few minutes heading for the farm, utilising a combination of silly walks and an unreliable car prone to backfiring.
Meanwhile the girl thinks the burglars are outside trying to get in, but it's actually her parents who think it's the burglars in the house. They nearly shoot her as she hides in the cupboard.
By the time the police arrive the misunderstanding is resolved, but they don't seem to mind. Then they all find that while they've been distracted the cow has had a calf, so that's nice. The end.
Keystone's approach to comedy was to have lots of frantic action and to have a high turnover. It's early days of course, but the rushed production methods do show a bit here. It's not clearly indicated who the 'burglars' are supposed to be, and there aren't even any real gags as such, just a lot of running around and falling over. Mabel Normand is nice though.

Also released in 1913 was the first few chapters of Louis Feuillade's five-hour crime thriller serial "Fantomas". I'd like to have reviewed that, but it's five hours long and I don't have the DVD, so....