At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER

By • Jul 27th, 2015 •

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One hundred years ago, comedian Harry Watson, Jr. (aka Musty Suffer) was a highly surreal version of the more famous Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. In a series of almost forgotten one-reel comic film shorts from 1916 and 1917, Musty Suffer, a carefree and inventive hobo, sailed through a flurry of insane fantasy adventures. In comparison, his tattered hobo costume made Chaplin’s tramp attire look like Cary Grant’s tuxedo.

Undercrank Productions has released two DVDs of THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER. This DVD set features over a dozen Musty Suffer shorts, preserved by the Library of Congress. These films have been virtually unseen for almost a century. Silent film comedy has some basis in reality. Chaplin often centered his films on real life situations such as poverty and abuse. Keaton, in films like THE GENERAL, would mold comedy around detailed historic recreations. Musty Suffer lives in a world that belongs in a crazy, booze-induced slapstick dream. This means Musty Suffer is a silent movie comic well worth catching up with.

Musty’s first film was a five-reel feature titled KEEP MOVING in 1915. After a preview screening, producer George Kleine cut the film down to a series of shorts. In this film, the King and Queen of Blunderland roller-skate to their throne where a Fairy Godfather sends their child into the real world. Supplied with a mansion, the child (Musty) bathes in beer, and soon winds up in front of a firing squad where cannonballs bounce off his chest. Musty is then kidnapped and forced to fight the champion, Willie Work. This crazy adventure gets even wilder.

In STRICTLY PRIVATE (1916), a horse begins to follow Musty around. This horse is clearly two men in a horse outfit. Wishing for some quick riches, Musty calls upon his Fairy Godfather. The Fairy Godfather, a tramp hobo with beard grizzle and a magic wand, appears and magically conjures up a taxi carriage for Musty and his horse. (This skid-row fairy is in many Musty Suffer shorts) Musty’s biggest fare is a drunk who is driven all of about fifty feet to a nearby house. Musty gets the drunk into the house, up the stairs and through a door that leads to dead air. The drunk crashes to the ground outside and staggers to the carriage again. Musty and the drunk repeat this routine enough for Musty to have a good day in mythical taxi-land.

In MUSTY’S VACATION, (1917), Musty finds a book of free meal tickets for a local restaurant. Sadly, for poor Musty, the ticket book has a Photo I.D of the rightful owner, a man more handsome and taller than Musty. Musty goes through surreal plastic surgery and has his body stretched (to about eight foot high) in a steel foundry so he can match the photo and use the ticket.

In OUTS AND INS (1916) Musty works in an Automat where he punishes a shoplifter with arms about seven feet long by chopping off his hand and throwing him down a chute leading to a cement mixer type of machine.

The films have an upbeat musical score by Ben Model, who produced and authored the DVD set. The DVD comes with an informative and entertaining booklet written by film historian Steve Massa. The booklet spells out Harry Watson’s career and the history of what became of the Musty Suffer shorts over time. Watching Musty Suffer, you see where comedy producers like Hal Roach got a slew of ideas. Often imitated, Musty Suffer remains a unique original.

To order the DVD, please visit http://amzn.com/B00JRHW4GK

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