Easy Street (1917)

Article 4019 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-31-2012
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Featuring Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell
Country: USA
What it is: Comic short

When the little tramp falls for a beautiful organist at a mission, he reforms and gets a job as a cop. However, his first beat takes him into an encounter with an enormous and nearly indestructible bully.

I’ve only had the opportunity to cover two other Charlie Chaplin movies for this series, and one (MONSIEUR VERDOUX) could hardly be called representative, while the other (HIS PREHISTORIC PAST) caught him at his weakest. This one is much more representative, and does capture him with his strengths intact. However, the fantastic content is a little ambiguous; the Don Willis guide talks about a mad scientist’s formula making Chaplin super strong, but I think the Walt Lee guide, which merely says that Chaplin is injected with a hypo that makes him hyperactive, is much closer to the truth. The impression I got from watching the movie is that the man with the hypo is not a mad scientist, but some sort of drug addict, which fits the setting and the action much better. Nevertheless, this element only plays into the story momentarily near the end; one could also make the argument that the movie qualifies by the fact that the nearly indestructible bully has superpowers, as he can resist repeated hits on the head with truncheons, and is powerful enough to break out of handcuffs. Still, that’s more in line with the idea of comic exaggeration. Much of the movie is slapstick antics, but you notice Chaplin’s talent much more in the quieter, less frantic scenes. All in all, this was a lot of fun.

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