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Author Topic: The Bell Boy (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton  (Read 76 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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Watch THE BELL BOY in the link above.  We are halfway through the Arbuckle-Keaton era.

Happy 99th birthday to THE BELL BOY, which was premiered on this date in 1918!  THE BELL BOY is different from the rest we have reviewed, as here we see Buster, Roscoe, and Al all working *together*.  No one is the evil villain amongst the three for once.

The Three Stooges are great because they somehow manage to take a simple task and make it horribly wrong by doing it horribly wrong.  Laurel & Hardy do it right and find every way possible way for it to go wrong.  Arbuckle, Keaton, and St. John do it horribly wrong and have it come out not only right but with machine perfection.

The opening scene of this is recycled years later as IDLE ROOMERS.  The early stuff is basic slapstick.

I love the culture references here.  First, the nut Roscoe is trimming the hair of is named "Rasputin the Mystic," which is a reference to the Russian seer to the emperor, who is famous for supposedly being demon-possessed and surviving despite being shot several times in places that should have caused instant death, beaten, thrown off a building, and left to freeze before he finally drowned after being under ice for MUCH longer than even professions could survive.  I digress.  Likewise, Roscoe trims the man's hair to resemble famous figures... and pies the man after trimming his face to resember Kaiser Wilhelm I!!!

There are some great moments of slapstick throughout from our heroic trio.  Each one gets an extended solo scene (though naturally Roscoe gets the most) during which incredible acrobatics are scene.  The robbery scene is a slapstick pratfall demonstration for the ages, but sadly no one is identifiable in it.

Unfortunately, much of the supporting cast is downright pathetic, again.  This isn't the Keaton silent era where Joe Roberts was dependable.  Alas, I must take a point for this flaw as it does affect my viewing pleasure.

9/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
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Offline Umbrella Sam

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Re: The Bell Boy (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2017, 09:25:59 AM »
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  • This is a short that I think gets better as it goes along. I find the first few minutes to be kind of boring and the whole scene of Arbuckle cutting the guy's hair to resemble famous figures goes on for a bit too long. However, I did like the window cleaning gag and after the hair-cutting sequence, the short begins to really pick up.

    I agree that it is nice to see Arbuckle, Keaton, and St. John working as an actual comedy team for once. It is very refreshing compared to a lot of the previous shorts. Some of the highlights to me include the phone exchange between Buster and Al while Buster is stuck jumping on the board, the misunderstanding with the customer and his hat, and the large fight scene at the bank.

    On a side note, we also get to see the head-pressing gag that would later turn up in DISORDER IN THE COURT and BRIDELESS GROOM, which makes me wonder if Keaton was the one that came up with this. It turned up at least one other time before the Three Stooges, in Harold Lloyd's WELCOME DANGER (which was written and directed by Keaton's former writing partner, Clyde Bruckman).

    Outside of the first few minutes, I thought this was a great short, so I'll rank it the same as you, Paul.

    9 out of 10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Bell Boy (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: March 20, 2017, 11:03:43 AM »
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  •       Overall, this is a very enjoyable short.  The only reason why I'm not going to give this a perfect score is because the scene where Arbuckle molds the different faces through shaving techniques in the barber chair comes across as a little show offish to me, and the premise of having your friends rob a bank so you can catch them to impress a girl is a bit iffy for me, but the rest is pure gold.  I will say about the barber chair scene, as Paul mentions, at one point the man in the chair is transformed into Kaiser Wilhelm, complete with pies in the face.  Add to this the sign near Al St. John that advertises German and Frehch cooking, with the word "German" crossed out, and you get WWI propaganda the same way we get it WWII with the Stooges and Hollywood in general in the first half of the 40's.  The most famous WWI films made during the era would have to be Chaplin's SHOULDER ARMS and D.W. Griffith's HEARTS OF THE WORLD.

          As usual, the acrobatics in this thing are top notch. Check out the high velocity tumbles Keaton takes in the bank robbing scene, they're quite breathtaking.  Al St John is good here too, but he tends to be lower to the ground than Keaton during his falls.  Also love the way Arbuckle just non chalantly comes into the fray and start wailing a chair at the bad guys.  The way the camera is set up very two dimensionally during the acrobatics no doubt had an effect on Keaton's camera placement in such scenarios later on.

          While St. John has his moments, you can really start to see Arbuckle gravitate more towards Keaton here, as they do a lot of little slapstick gags together at the beginning and work very fluently together.  It's also nice watching Keaton get a small bit with his Dad in the middle of the short, and Joe Keaton gets to show off that high leg kick that was his signature.  The gag involving the horse as the elevator pulley culminating with Keaton getting his head stuck in the elevator is hysterical, as is the moose head on the wall developing a foot fetish. 

    "Those are the three elements, I think, that go into being happy: Find something you love, be good at it, and have other people pat you on the back and say "good job." - George Carlin