The Haunted House (February 21, 1921)
Released on February 21, 1921: Buster Keaton is a bank teller that gets chased into a haunted house hideout.
Directed by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton
Written by Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline.
The Actors: Buster Keaton (bank clerk), Virginia Fox (the bank president's daughter), Joe Roberts (bank cashier), Edward F. Cline (Fabrizius), Natalie Talmadge (fainting bank customer).
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You hear about the legendary comic Buster Keaton, but you figure, "How funny can someone be in 1921? Now, almost a hundred years later, it probably isn't as funny as comics today, right?" Wrong - dead wrong. If you've never watched a silent comedy short, this is the one to get you hooked. Buster Keaton is a young bank teller, who opens the doors of the local small town bank with a cap opener. You see, the door knob is sealed with one of those new-fangled inventions that they are using now to seal beer bottles - no cork needed - just a bottle opener, or 'churchkey,' as they were commonly called.
I won't detail all of the comedy scenes in this one, it would spoil the surprise when you see them. But the big story is that one of the bank cashiers is a crook and counterfeiter, and he and his gang live in a house that they have rigged up to appear to be haunted, to scare the police and nosey neighbors away. Meanwhile, back at the bank, Buster accidentally dips his hand in a can of glue, and manages to get just about everything you could think of, and a couple of things you'd never think of, glued together. Amidst all of the glue folly, the bank robbers come in, but because of all the glue, Buster manages to get their guns and scare them away. But just then the bank president comes out, and seeing Buster standing there with the guns in his hands, he believes that Buster is trying to rob his bank, and they chase after him. Meanwhile, that night during a Faust play, the actors are booed off the stage, and go running into the night, in fear of their lives. The next morning Buster is chased up the street until he finds refuge in the haunted house. Soon the actors from the play also run into the house, dressed as the devil and other midevial costumes. So we have little fraidy-cat Buster in this house that is rigged to appear haunted, a bunch of actors in strange costume, and the head cashier and his gangsters trying to scare everyone away. Trust me, you will laugh till you cry, so keep the bowl of popcorn safely beside you, not on your lap wher your tears will make it soggy.
You will be amazed and impressed at the physical situation comedy that Mr. Keaton and Mr. Cline created for the movie-going public in 1921 - it is better quality than much of the humor today, hands down. Being a true 'silent' movie, it is a 'safe for work' movie - watch it at your desk, just be sure that you don't break out spontaneously into laughter or your boss may get suspicious - after all, no one is allowed to be happy at work!