Saturday 22 September 2007

All Aboard (1917) Alfred J Goulding

Harold Lloyd actually started out in film earlier than Charlie Chaplin, his first uncredited performances being in 1913. He didn't do much until after Chaplin had redefined comedy though, becoming Lonesome Luke in 1915 for a whole slew of movies. I haven't seen any of these yet, my earliest Lloyd film being Billy Blazes, Esq, for Hal Roach in 1919. Now, courtesy of a cheap and very welcome box set from Passport Video, I'm able to catch some of his 1917 and 1918 movies, this one being the earliest.

It's relatively unsophisticated slapstick with fake beards, shaking fists and stuck out tongues; mud throwing and policemen's hats being knocked off, but it's staged well. There are some interesting tricks played on reality too, such as when Lloyd cries down the phone and then blows the tears down the phone line to drench the despotic father of his beloved. We don't find out character names, but it's Harold Lloyd and Bebe Daniels, his regular co-star in the Lonesome Luke films, in love but being kept apart. She's from a family with delusions of grandeur who want her to marry 'the barren', while he's hiding his social standing inside a posh suit.

When she gets whisked off to Bermuda, which they never reach, he stows away in a conveniently empty trunk and we end up with as much slapstick as the cast and crew can possibly cram into a film only nine minutes long. The set piece is a slapstick fight in a cramped room on board ship and it's hard to keep a smile from creeping out, because it's handled well if at breakneck speed. Up till then most of the shipboard action is intriguingly spent on a set that rocks back and forth, which makes for an interesting experience too. Definitely an interesting film for 1917 and I'm well overdue for the Lonesome Lukes, if they're still available.

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