The Mishaps of Musty Suffer
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The Mishaps of Musty Suffer was a series of comedy shorts released weekly, in three series of ten films, from 1916-17. It was popular, successful and well-reviewed…and yet it is almost completely forgotten today. Playing Musty Suffer was Ziegfield Follies headliner comic Harry Watson, Jr.…also forgotten. 24 of the 30 "Musty" films survive and have been in the collection of the Library of Congress since 1959 but are rarely seen.
The films are hilarious, full of cartoony and surreal settings and slapstick, and have a circus influence. This DVD contains 8 of the best of the surviving Musty shorts, seen for the first time ever on video in new HD transfers from master material preserved by the Library of Congress, and featuring brand new musical scores by Ben Model.
Be sure to pick up the companion guide by Steve Massa with detailed film notes and history on the series and a complete Musty filmography. The booklet even fits inside the DVD case for handy reference!
THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER:
"Going Up" (1916) - 12 mins
"The Lightning Bellhop" (1916) - 13 mins
"Just Imagination" (1916) - 14 mins
"Blow Your Horn" (1916) - 12 mins
"While You Wait" (1916) - 14 mins
"Local Showers" (1916) - 12 mins
"Outs and Ins" (1916) - 12 mins
"Spliced and Iced" (1917) - 12 mins
"Hold Fast" (excerpt) (1916) - 6 mins
"Capturing Chicago" (1916)- 10 mins
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Harry Watson Jr. is the absolute star in each of these nine and a half howlers. His rubber face is perfect for the lead role, reacting to the outrageous situations our hero finds himself in through a twitch of his mile-long mouth or a roll of one of his seemingly independent eyes. He is every bit the master of slapstick, and certainly would deserve a place on the top shelf with Chaplain, Lloyd, and Keaton.
If you are interested in finding out more about Watson and his outstanding entourage of comedians and actors who accompany him on his films, you absolutely can't go wrong with Steve Massa's companion guide, sold separately. Once you've read that, you may also enjoy the number of articles available through Google Books - search on "Harry Watson Jr." and you'll have an appreciation for how well-loved this comedian was back in the day. Amazing that he's not better known today.
But putting aside the historical value of these films, the question needs to be asked: How entertaining are these?
Watson was a clown. As in circus clown. Much of this is physical humor, wildly exaggerated facial expressions, cartoonish escapades, etc. There's nothing subtle about Musty Suffer. At his best, Musty can be graceful and light on his feet (he does one or two little dances that are a joy to watch), impish, energetic, and charming. At his worst, he's just another vulgar and histrionic mugger doing crude slapstick. There's talent here, no doubt. At times, there's a hint or two that Musty seems almost about to break out of the Tom and Jerry hi-jinks into something more interesting and sublime, but he never crosses that bridge; he only places his tippy-toe on it. We're stuck with fat jokes (yep, there's a guy so fat that the elevator can't lift him to the second floor and they need to use a horse to do the trick, and the last short has Musty married to a very fat harridan) and even a (yawn) pie in the face. There are a few good very early special effects (quick cutting, film playing backwards) to add to the interest of these films, but, overall, this is mostly for silent film fans who are mad about the genre. There are redeeming features in these films but I didn't find these funny or indispensable. The better shorts come first; there's a gradual decline in quality as the dvd proceeds, and the last two shorts are abysmal. I also think this was overpriced (the films are in the public domain, after all). The booklet that gives the history of these films has to be bought separately, jacking the price up to 25$ - something this package is definitely not worth. Summary: The value of these films lie more in their age than in the antics of the moderately talented Harry Watson Jr.
The ensemble is also amazing; they are a wonderful group of bizarros and they work tightly together with some fantastic pantomime. Watson even dances in a couple of these films. I wish they had continued to make movies; I would like to see a whole lot more of these wonderful actors.
So, we have short, inventive comedies with wildly creative characters and situations, in quite viewable prints, AND... drum roll please... Exceptional musical accompaniments!
Now if anyone out there has by some chance of fate ever read my other reviews of silent films, you probably know that the sound accompaniments are critical to me, and insufficient sound makes me crazy. I can't stand it if the music does not seem to relate to the image, or if it is out of sync (the sound-picture sync problem in the recent release of newly-restored Chaplin's Mutual Films makes me want to firebomb my screen).
I must say these are the best musical accompaniments I have ever heard from Mr. Model. He even goes right ahead without apology and places musical accents where there are visual highlights (read: when someone gets hit over the head), and IT IS GREAT! And NO it is not distracting--his music supports the movies beautifully, and makes the comedy come to life. There were a few times when I laughed out loud, and later realized that it was his musical accent that pushed me over the top from a smile to a laugh.
There are other comedians out there who need to be brought out of the attic, and I recently read that Mr. Model is next working on a Marcel Perez DVD. Judging by the few clips I've found of this early comedian, the upcoming DVD will also be enlightening. Get this "Musty Suffer" DVD now, and be sure to watch for "The Marcel Perez Collection", probably out early 2015.
Most recent customer reviews
There were so many laugh out loud things here, I couldn't count them all!
There is one bit in one of these that very much reminded me of the great Ernie...Read more