The Shriek of Araby (1923)

Article 4260 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-6-2013
Directed by F. Richard Jones
Featuring Ben Turpin, Kathryn McGuire, George Cooper
Country: USA
What it is: Movie parody

A cross-eyed bill poster dreams that he takes the place of Rudolph Valentino’s character in THE SHIEK.

I’ve not seen much of Ben Turpin’s comedic output; the most prominent role of his I’ve seen so far was some cameo scenes in MILLION DOLLAR LEGS. I will say this much for him, though; he had one of the most iconic faces of silent comedy, and may be the most instantly recognizable comedian of the era next to Charlie Chaplin. Unfortunately, if this movie is representative of his work in general, then it’s for his face he will mostly be remembered. It’s not that the movie is bad, mind you; it’s just that it’s pretty ordinary. Beyond the admittedly funny concept that Turpin is taking on a character played by Valentino, he doesn’t really come up with a particularly engaging personality to set himself apart from the pack. It also lacks the comic inventiveness that would help people like Buster Keaton rise to the top of the craft. For me, the funniest gags were the ones that played off the domestic life of a sultan of the desert being pretty much like the domestic life here at home; my favorite moment has the sultan’s wife going out of the tent to pick up the newspaper and milk, and that’s a pretty mild gag. Oddly enough, the original Valentino movie doesn’t qualify for this series; this one does via the appearance of a magician who can do real magic. Again, I haven’t seen much of Turpin’s work, so maybe he will grow on me, but at this point, I do find myself a little disappointed.


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