Silent Saturday: When the Clouds Roll By

1919 action comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: For reasons that are never really explained, an evil psychologist and his minions attempt to drive a superstitious guy to suicide.

This was Victor Fleming's directorial debut about thirty years before Munchkins and that 5-hour movie that put me to sleep. The guy came out of the gate with a creative energy. My favorite scenes in this are lightly surrealistic ones--a glimpse inside the main character's stomach as he suffers from heartburn, of course with fervently dancing items of food, and a peek inside Fairbanks' brain that predates Inside-Out. A wild dream sequence, a flood that reminded me of a Buster Keaton climax, and a scene where Fleming has Fairbanks dancing on a ceiling 32 years before Gene Kelly and more than 60 years before Lionel Richie are highlights.

Douglas Fairbanks was called a "whirling cyclone of energy" by his biographer, Jeffrey Vance. I probably don't know Fairbanks as much as I should. He's fun to watch, both the acrobatic stunt work and the acrobatic overacting. There are a whole lot of gratuitous slow-motion jumping sequences if that's your thing. The "whirling cyclone of energy" comparison is apt, and he drives this weird little movie.

Our story flies by at a pace that is completely unrealistic, but it never slows down enough to bore anybody like one might expect from a movie made before 1920. The story starts out goofy and only gets goofier once the romantic element is added, but that can't slow down the momentum. It's a dark, risky little comedy, and it never stops being fun.

A glimpse inside Fairbanks' stomach

No comments: