Friday 31 August 2007

Coney Island (1917) Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle

Made in 1917, this was Buster Keaton's fifth film with Fatty Arbuckle and his fifth film full stop. He was therefore nigh on unknown at this point and he gets accordingly little screen time, though he's fine when he's in front of the camera. However while Fatty is certainly the star here, he doesn't hog the limelight, letting others strut their stuff too.

We're at Coney Island, as you'd expect from the title, the amusement park which we first see at night in archive footage. Fatty escapes his wife, played by Agnes Neilson, so that he can enjoy a little of Coney Island with a young lady. There's a comedy of errors with Al St John stealing Buster Keaton's girl, only for her to be stolen again by Fatty Arbuckle. To get away with it and because it's the only disguise available, Fatty dresses up as a rather large girl in a swimsuit, leading to further confusion when Al St John decides he likes the look of the large lady and tries it on with her, only for Keaton to turn up as a lifeguard and expose the charade.

There's plenty here to enjoy, in what must have been one of the quickest, most action packed shorts Arbuckle ever put together. It's completely insane slapstick, but it's fast and furious and fun. Beyond the cross dressing disguise, Fatty gets to fight underwater, lock his wife up in jail and even ask the cameraman to pan up while he gets changed. It's inventive and anarchic and one of the best Fatty Arbuckles I've seen thus far.

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