Goofy Ghosts (1928)

Article 4082 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-18-2012
Directed by Harold Beaudine
Featuring Jimmie Adams, Lorraine McLean, Billy Engle
Country: USA
What it is: Old Dark House, slapstick short style

A man, his wife, and their dog visit an uncle, who is being terrorized by a villain known as the Skull.

I’ve seen lots of “old dark house” movies, but I’ve rarely seen ones reduced to a slapstick short in this manner before. Which is not to say that I haven’t seen the idea in comic shorts before; shorts by Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd come to mind. But this one is done in the manic “Keystone Kops” style, with non-stop slapstick shtick and frantic behavior, and that makes it a little bit different. My copy is in the accelerated speed that I’ve come to recognize as usually being a sign that the projection speed hasn’t been adjusted, but it’s the type of short that actually benefits from that; since it’s working in a farcical mode, the extra energy is a plus. If you’re not a fan of slapstick, this isn’t likely to appeal to you. It does have a few fun moments; the sequence where various parties try to get a hold of a bag of money suspended on a chandelier is pretty amusing, and a sequence where the villain tries to grab the bag of money out the hand of the uncle benefits from the speedy timing. On top of the villain in the skull mask, we have some people mistaken for ghosts because sheets are thrown over them to add to the faked fantastic content. It’s disposable, of course, but I will say this much; the scared black manservant cliche present here is much less offensive when all of the characters are acting with the same manic “frightened out of our wits” behavior.

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