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About Rmlohner

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  1. One scene that immediately comes to mind for me when comparing these two eras is a direct reference to the difficulties of the switch to sound films in Singin' in the Rain. The first cut of a silent star's first sound film has the audience laughing their heads off at how badly they made the transition, but the meta-narrative level is that it's deliberately funny for us watching the movie. I'm thinking especially of Don's melodramatic tossing his cane away, causing it to make a giant crashing noise when it lands; the joke is entirely dependent on sound, yet is also undeniably in the slapstick genre. One of my first exposures to silent films was a compilation of Harold Lloyd's work at age five, which instantly cured me of the notion that movies that old couldn't have any enjoyment in modern times. So these kinds of documentaries definitely serve their purpose in that way, as kind of a stepping stone for people not quite sure if the era is for them.
  2. Jackie Chan has made numerous references to how the great silent comedians were how he first got into the movies despite not speaking English as a kid, which is why he's had so many homages to them throughout his career. It's double the enjoyment if you know your stuff.
  3. I also thought of one more Chaplin bit involving multiple performers, that's more challenging than anything seen here: in The Pawn Shop he swings around a giant ladder, hitting two other guys multiple times as he turns to talk to one or the other. Both guys actually look like they're getting hit every time in what's obviously a very carefully planned piece, and really makes me wonder if there were some painful outtakes involved. Like I said in the last board, I see a big part of the genre's success is the element of risk involved.
  4. I get the feeling watching these in a row that Chaplin was not only building his own craft, but he knew he had regular fans who were watching each new film he put out, and they would likely get bored if he just did the same stuff over and over. This leads to a topic I wasn't expecting to come up this soon, the speed with which a slapstick gag becomes stale and some new twist needs to be put on it if you're going to use it again. Possibly the starkest example ever of this is in the Abbott and Costello film Hit the Ice, where Lou's love interest gets angry and he backs away as she advances on him. A long shot shows he's going towards a swimming pool...but he stops on the edge and doesn't fall. Then when the girl leaves, he turns right to the camera and says "You thought I was going to fall in, didn't you?" And the next second, he does fall in for a different reason. The same basic gag, but it's just aware enough of its own cliche that you can laugh at it again.
  5. While reading through the boards, I found myself recalling the ill-fated attempt to make an animated series of Mr. Bean. You can see why someone would think it was a good idea, as the original show was almost entirely a physical comedy showcase with barely any dialogue, bringing to mind something like Tom and Jerry, and in animated form you could have far more freedom in taking the gags as big as your imagination. But the show was a flop, as just about every fan of the original series said the same thing: the character just didn't carry the same interest when you weren't watching an actual person doing this stuff. That touches on the violence rule, but from a different angle: the risk of the actor actually getting hurt is an intrinsic part of the experience, even if it never actually happens. I also remember an early Saturday Night Live episode where Chevy Chase gives a pratfall lesson to the host, and says the most important part is the audience briefly think they just saw something painful, even though it was actually carefully controlled. It's the same principle that got Buster Keaton's father in trouble for including his extremely young son in his "human mop" routine, even though he always insisted he was in full control.
  6. My thoughts actually went much more to Woody Woodpecker than Bugs Bunny. The typical setup of those cartoons (and exactly why I could never get into them even as a kid) was Woody randomly pranking some guy over and over, and never getting any comeuppance for it. And this film makes it work because the pranker does get his comeuppance, making it more reminiscent of Woody's direct predecessors Heckle and Jeckle. And of course, what makes the likes of Bugs and Road Runner more palatable is that the person they're up against is actively trying to harm them first (though not all the time, once the audience knew the characters well enough to automatically be on their side). One other bit that popped into my head was the closing credits running gag in the second series of Blackadder, which shows how this kind of gag can be improved with a longer format. Each time, Blackadder gets taunted by a guy singing about the problem he had in the episode, and he searches a garden for him. Each time the search becomes angrier and more violent, until in the last episode he finally catches the guy and dunks him into a fountain. The buildup (especially if you saw them weekly on the original airing) is what makes it all worth it.
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