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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Top Customer Reviews
Well, I've been arrogant. Just when you begin to think you know it all, humility comes knocking. I opened that door and am pleased to report that "The Mishaps of Musty Suffer" DVD is a revelation in so many ways, I don't know where to begin. But here goes...
These comedic films are not the missing link in film history. They're more like an incredible trip down the rabbit hole, each of which are a wonderful combination of high and low humor, surrealism mixed with a light does of realism, and, if you look deep enough, a reflection of the eternal struggle to find our place in a chaotic world (although Musty often manages to find order in the chaos, and vice versa).
The lead performer, Harry Watson, Jr., is really a forgotten talent. As the DVD liner notes indicate, he was a vaudeville headliner before appearing in these films between 1916 and 1917, and his long list of accomplishments includes success with both the Ringling Brothers' Circus as well as the Ziegfeld Follies.
The films themselves are in wonderful shape, thanks to the preservation work of the Library of Congress, and the heroic efforts of those brave producers who have resurrected these forgotten artifacts to DVD. Rarely have I seen such pristine material. The musical scores are spot on, and complement the movies enormously.
So, if you're interested in film history, watch this DVD. If you enjoy a good laugh, watch this DVD. If you're trying to make sense of the world without indulging in illegal drugs, watch this DVD. No matter what your rationale, please do yourself a favor and pick up this little gem. Like Musty, you'll have no regrets.
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.
In brief, the character Musty Suffer is a ragged hobo who undergoes a series of "whirls," that is, misadventures in which he encounters crazy people and takes a lot of punishment. Watson's strenuous mugging is so broad and over-the-top, viewers may correctly guess that he was a former circus clown. (This and other pertinent details about the series can be found in Steve Massa's DVD companion booklet.) Your mileage may vary, but personally I enjoy the star's antics. These wacky comedies demand larger-than-life histrionics, not subtlety, and Watson and his supporting players supply the goods. Highlights of the set include Musty's perilous trip to the dentist (Local Showers), his gig at an automat from which no man returns (Outs and Ins), and his encounter with two sinister doctors who mess with his mind (Just Imagination). In While You Wait, our hero takes on three different jobs as servant in a wealthy household--butler, maid, and gardener--which is similar to the situation in Laurel & Hardy's Another Fine Mess, made some fourteen years later.
While watching these shorts I was reminded at times of the surreal trick films of Georges Méliès. Other moments suggest the cartoons of the Fleischer studio or Tex Avery, and then there are moments when we're smack dab in Ham & Bud territory, i.e. the world of low-life knockabout comedy. Some of the gags must have been familiar to viewers even when the shorts were new, but it's striking how the filmmakers usually managed to put an original spin on what they were doing. They look like they were having a great time, and that still comes across almost a century after the films were made. Ben Model and Steve Massa are to be commended for bringing these quirky comedies out of the vaults and into our living-rooms. Somewhere, Harry Watson, Jr., must be smiling. Or mugging furiously.