Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Comedy: Cops (1922, Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton)

Cops (1922)
USA, 18 min
Directed by: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton
Written by: Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton
Starring: Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Virginia Fox, Edward F. Cline

Lying in bed with a sore throat, I needed some cheering up. Buster Keaton didn't let me down. Cops (1922) is generally typical of the comedian's two-reelers of the early 1920s, though with a lesser emphasis on the ingenious gadgets exhibited in One Week (1920) and The High Sign (1921). The film opens with Keaton apparently looking through prison bars at his sweetheart, until a clarifying shot reveals that it is merely the girl's front gate {Harold Lloyd seized this visual gag for the opening of Safety Last! (1923), but he had a right to it – one scene in Keaton's film, whether unintentionally or not, resembles the manner in which a prop explosion decapitated Lloyd's hand in 1919}. After convincing himself to become a businessman, Keaton's Young Man goes on to show that he has the worst luck in the world. First, he is bamboozled into purchasing another family's furniture (by Steve Murphy, the pickpocket in Chaplin's The Circus (1928)), and then gets caught up in a police parade, where, ever a victim of circumstance, he is wrongly accused of performing an act of terrorism.

Keaton loved ending his film's with an overblown chase sequence, whether it be the stampeding cattle in Go West (1925) or the stampeding women in Seven Chances (1925). In Cops, our hero is pursued by hundreds of uniformed policemen, swinging batons and tripping over themselves. Here, Keaton really earns his title as the "Great Stone Face." The chaos and confusion of the pursuit is amusing enough, but even more so is Keaton's extraordinary lack of facial expression – he just runs, staring blankly ahead, like a man who expects his problems to dissipate as soon as he wakes up. Also incredible is the performer's physical dexterity, as he flips back and forth over a tall ladder balanced precariously on either side of a fence. Also watch out for Keaton regular Joe Roberts as the Police Chief, and recurring co-star Virginia Fox in a disappointingly brief role as our hero's love interest. Even an aching throat can't dampen the chuckles in this excellent comedy short. If laughter is, indeed, the best medicine, then I should be better by the morning.

1 comment:

  1. READER'S PLEASE NOTE: This review was written in late May, when I was down and out with the flu. Since I'm obviously all better now, there's no need to offer your best wishes for my health!

    P.S. Just for the record, I was NOT better by the next morning.


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