Thursday, May 07, 2015
Back In 2015: Further Mishaps Of Musty Suffer And More Silent Comedy Rarities "Accidentally Preserved"
"In the world of Musty Suffer, anything can and does happen, and it’s not always pretty—to the cognoscenti, that is the beauty of these films: they are not pretty." Ben Robinson
"Volume 2 gives us another visit to the hilarious and surreal world that Musty barely survives in. Either you're laughing at his antics, or your jaw is dropping in suspended disbelief at his predicaments. Frank Commins
"Take one hapless tramp who dreams of bathing in bathtubs of beer, suffers from tenacious hookworms, and regularly goes reconstructive surgery with blunt instruments but always lives to tell about it in the next episode, and you have The Mishaps Of Musty Suffer." Steve Massa
Well, it took 97 years in limbo for the warped comic universe of goofball tramp Musty Suffer to make the journey from its original 1916-1917 run in movie theaters to a revival in a 2014 DVD release.
This first volume of Musty's mishaps turned out to be the first time these films have been available to be seen the general public after their theatrical release.
The Mishaps Of Musty Suffer series, produced by George Kleine for Essanay in 1916-1917, stars rubber-faced circus clown and Ziegfeld Follies performer Harry Watson, Jr.
The humor is original and highly unusual, with one foot planted firmly in the 19th century circus, with plenty of extra sawdust, and the other foot not-so-squarely into the most wacky, cartoony and surreal movie sight gags, looking forward to the wildly imaginative likes of such animators as Charley Bowers and especially that master of physical distortion gags, Tex Avery.
Watching The Mishaps Of Musty Suffer, besides recalling Terry Gilliam's animated abuse of 19th century photo cut-outs in quite a few Monty Python's Flying Circus shows, brings to mind a "face rearranging gag" from Avery's epic MGM cartoon Northwest Hounded Police, in which The Wolf (who, after at one point literally running off the very sprockets of the film) barges into a plastic surgeon's office and demands "Doc, you gotta get me a new face - YOU GOTTA GET ME A NEW FACE!" These films are decades apart, but, weirdly and with some serendipity, in the same comic spirit.
Hallelujah, there is a followup DVD release in 2015, now available via Amazon. That means more HD transfers of Musty's "greasepaint and surrealism" packed mishaps (a.k.a. "whirls"), preserved by The Library Of Congress, with new musical scores by Ben Model. None have been previously available on video.
The Mishaps Of Musty Suffer volume 2 features four more off-the-wall scenarios in which Musty Suffer works in an arcade and as a messenger boy, has his body and face repeatedly mangled in the hopes of getting a meal, and is gifted a pantomime horse by the itinerant Fairy Tramp for a business opportunity.
Also on the DVD are Bickel & Watson's first film from 1915, and a 1910 newsreel that contains footage of them as members of a clown band as well as of the legendary Bert Williams doing some of his famous boxing routine.
Here's a little taste of Musty mayhem.
The lineup of The Mishaps Of Musty Suffer volume 2 is as follows:
Showing Some Speed (1916) - 13 mins
Out of Order (1916) - 13 mins
Musty's Vacation (1916) - 13 mins
Strictly Private (1916) - 13 mins
Actors Fund Field Day (1910) - 5 mins
The Fixer (1915) - (1916) - 33 mins
Produced by Ben Model/Undercrank Productions
Curated by Steve Massa and Ben Model
97 mins - B&W - stereo
NTSC - region 0 (all-regions)
For more info about the films and the DVD, check out these reviews from Ben Robinson and Anthony Balducci's Journal, as well as the official Musty Suffer website and Silent Film Music.com. In addition, David Kalat of Movie Morlocks wrote a terrific article on the TCM website about the series.
Meanwhile, Undercrank Productions, responsible for bringing Musty (and stylish slapstick farceur Marcel "Tweedy" Perez) back from the deep past have also launched a Kickstarter fundraiser to get the ball rolling on their next Accidentally Preserved DVD of very funny and VERY rare silent comedy films, thankfully still surviving due to 16mm prints struck long, long ago.
We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are thrilled and delighted to support this work! The fundraiser for Accidentally Preserved volume 3 will be on for another 10 days.