For today, I’ve got another triplet of short films to review. All three shorts are in black and white, but in other respects, there’s an odd man out in a couple of ways. Two of the films are silents, but one is a talkie. And two of the films are comedies, while another is a dramatic short.
Being reviewed in this post:
- Sing a Song of Six Pants
- Love, Speed and Thrills
- A Corner on Wheat
Sing a Song of Six Pants (1947):
Another Three Stooges short from the Shemp era, this one features Moe, Larry, and Shemp as tailors running their own business. When their bills come due, they get mixed up with a bank robber as they consider going after the reward money for his capture. Most of the short is simply their shenanigans around the shop, though, and these are great physical comedy. There are a few gags set up a little bit in advance, but perhaps the best bit is Shemp’s attempt to iron a pair of pants, which results in a cavalcade of calamities. It’s one of the sketches that really shows how well the Stooges worked both individually and as a team, and there’s seldom a laugh-free moment.
Love, Speed and Thrills (1915):
This short is a slapstick comedy out of the Keystone studio. It’s the last short to feature the original Keystone Kops, although their role is mostly as supporting characters in the last half of the short. Mack Swain plays Ambrose, who accidentally knocks hunter Mr. Walrus (Chester Conklin) off a cliff, and takes him home to nurse him back to health. However, Walrus turns out to be a scoundrel, getting fresh with Ambrose’s wife (Minta Durfee) and eventually kidnapping her. It’s up to Ambrose and the Kops to track him down and rescue her.
There isn’t enough slapstick to make Walrus’s actions anything but creepy, but Swain and the Keystone Kops get some laughs through their prat falls and antics, as well as Swain’s wild-eyed appearance. It’s moderately interesting from a historical standpoint — certainly any film buff should probably have at least one Keystone Kop short in their viewing history — but it’s ultimately pretty forgettable.
A Corner on Wheat (1909):
A dramatic short instead of a comedy, A Corner in Wheat was directed by D.W. Griffith — he of Intolerance and Birth of a Nation. As the title states, it’s about a tycoon (Frank Powell) who decides to corner the market on wheat. He makes a fortune, but the rise in the cost of wheat leads to rampant hunger as the price of bread doubles, putting it out of reach for the common person. There are certainly parallels to be made between the film and the economy at the time — or certain aspects of today’s for that matter — but the story itself falls a little flat, despite a karmic ending. It may be due to the limitations of the format; as a short silent film, there isn’t much room for development on any of the characters or the story. Viewers who are used to modern, long-form explorations of dramatic concepts are going to find that there’s really not much to it beyond the basic summary. Ultimately, there’s just not much meat to A Corner in Wheat.