Stars: Terence Taggart, James Lawrence Sicard, Kelly O'Keefe and Batman
|This film was an official selection at the Filmstock Arizona 2013 round of the revolving Filmstock film festival. Here's an index to my reviews of all selections.|
Ritz and Spitz are stage magicians, but they're very different. Ritz lives up to his name, being slick and assured in his top hat, bow tie and cape. Terence Taggert has the flamboyant gestures down and looks like he inspires the confidence that the audience apparently has in him. How could a magician fail with a moustache like that? Spitz, on the other hand, can't hold a candle to him and probably couldn't afford one anyway if it wasn't a prop. He's a fundamentally lower class equivalent, appearing like nothing less than a scarecrow in ragged clothes, with tricks that are just as lacking. As Spitz, James Lawrence Sicard is embarrassed to be on the same stage as Ritz, but that could all be a deliberate contrast for a double act. Initially the script serves only to highlight their differences, Spitz sabotaging Ritz's tricks and failing in his own, while the effects are cheats; we don't even see Ritz slicing a watermelon in half with a sword to set up a trick. It's not long though before the real magic begins, as things start to get neatly surreal.
It's the surreality that makes this one work. While what we see could easily be read as a well rehearsed double act, it may just be that everything really does go off the rails in a maelstrom of catastrophe. I'm not sure which it's supposed to be, but it's not really important. What makes it so watchable is how far off the rails it ventures and how Ritz & Spitz attempt to salvage it. Surely it's no mistake that the chaos follows a white rabbit, which Ritz pulls out of his hat but Spitz loses inside his. Without this journey into the rabbit hole of surreality, it wouldn't have found Wonderland and would have ended up too long, too slow and too unlike the silent film it half wants to be. It does drag during the first half but the cinematic trickery gets better and better and the story gets wilder and wilder. The wilder it gets, the better it gets and the second half makes up for the first. At least David Kelly's score keeps us interested while we get there. As a sixteen minute short it's fun, but edited down into a twelve minute short it might be better.