Tuesday 9 January 2007

The Champion (1915)

While this short seemed rather unfocused without much consistency in its plot, the version I saw may well have been missing quite a few minutes so it's very unlikely to be the fault of writer/director/star Charlie Chaplin. Such are the problems with cheap DVDs of public domain silent movies, the ones with canned ragtime music that has nothing to do with the story. At least this one doesn't have the same piece on repeat play! However even in what is presumably a massacred version The Champion has plenty going for it.

This time round Chaplin finds a horseshoe outside a boxing gym advertising for sparring partners. Needless to say it doesn't take him long to floor the big guy with all the immaculate timing you'd expect from the Little Tramp. In about five minutes he's fighting for the championship which takes up half the film, and is far more of a wrestling match than a boxing match. It really plays out like a WWE match, the only difference being that Hulk Hogan didn't win. The referee gets knocked out a few times, and there's plenty of rope work, illegal foreign objects and what looked to me like attempts at a pinfall.

He also gets to romance Edna Purviance for a few blinks of an eye and hiding in the background are Chaplin regulars Ben Turpin and Lloyd Bacon, who wouldn't even become a director for another seven years. Here he's just a sparring partner to get knocked out but many more small parts in Chaplin shorts and Broncho Billy movies later he'd become one of the major names at Warner Brothers with films like 42nd Street and Footlight Parade as directorial credits, along with no end of Cagney, Robinson and Bogart movies.

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