Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Review: "The Mishaps of Musty Suffer"
Ben Model has done it again. Today marks the official release of Model's most recent Kickstarter venture, "The Mishaps of Musty Suffer," and this latest offering is every bit as entertaining as the last.
Musty Suffer is the title character in a series of films originally created and produced by George Kleine in 1916 and 1917. Starring Harry Watson Jr. as Musty, the various installments or "whirls" follow Musty's Book of Job-esque existence (Must he suffer?). Although that synopsis might suggest otherwise, the premise itself allows for hilarious run-ins, sticky situations and slapstick fun. The series ended rather unceremoniously in 1917, and remained largely forgotten and overlooked, but Model's Kickstarter project and supportive backers have helped bring these lesser-known films back into the spotlight.
The DVD features 10 Musty whirls, including installments created with Kleine and installments filmed and produced in and around Chicago by Essanay. The prints, which have been preserved by the Library of Congress, look great and are accompanied by Model's well-timed and thoroughly enjoyable original compositions.
Not only are these 10 whirls regarded as the funniest of the Musty films, their plots alone are fascinating. While some feel like they could easily belong in the same universe as Chaplin's one and two-reelers, such as 1916's "The Lightning Bellhop," others are surprisingly surreal and darkly funny. "Just Imagination" sees Musty as the victim of the sadistic Fairy Tramp who, rather than give him a job, sets him up as the guinea pig for a number of mental experiments. Similarly, "Outs and Ins" sees Musty as the operator of an automat who has a disturbing use for the diners who are eager to rip him off.
The most historically interesting film is "Capturing Chicago," a 10-minute piece filmed during Kleine and Watson's visit to Chicago for the Motion Picture Exposition in 1916. Musty and his gang parade around town, are presented with a key to the city, and even hijack a mini train in Lincoln Park.
Whether you're new to the world of silent comedy or a silent film historian, "The Mishaps of Musty Suffer" is hilarious, entertaining, and fascinating. You can buy it now via Amazon. For you completists out there, there is also a fantastic companion book, written by film historian Steve Massa, which details the history of Musty Suffer and gives an overview of the men behind Musty. You can also buy it now via Amazon.
Eager to learn more about Musty? Visit the official page here.