TOM, TOM, THE PIPER’S SON (1905)
Article 4287 by Dave Sindelar
What it is: Chase film
A piper’s son named Tom steals a pig at the local fair. Villagers give chase.
Let’s discuss the fantastic content first. First, I’m going to quote a line from the plot description on IMDB. “… Tom has some tricks up his sleeve that might give him a chance to escape…”. The description is attributed to someone named Snow Leopard, but I’m wondering if the description is pretty close to whatever Walt Lee read when he picked this one out to be included in in “Reference Guide to Fantastic Films” because his description of the fantastic content is one word – “Tricks”. Well, there’s tricks and then there’s tricks, and the types that Tom uses in this short are decidedly non-magical; they include things like hiding in a bail of hay while his pursuers run past him and climb up a ladder, then pushing the ladder away. In fact, to my eyes, there is no fantastic content whatever in this short.
That being said, this is also one of the worst directed and edited silent shorts I’ve ever seen. For example, the opening scene is almost two minutes of people milling around a fair; there’s a high wire act and a juggler on hand, but there’s no way to tell if you’re supposed to be focused on them, and the overall feeling is that nothing happens during the sequence until someone runs off with the pig. Every succeeding scene goes on way too long, and though the events are supposed to be humorous, the humor is compromised by the movie’s inability to know when enough is enough; it’s mildly funny that the whole crowd chases the boy up a chimney, but you don’t need to see every single person involved in the chase climb out of the chimney and jump to the ground. The movie’s about eight minutes long and could have been told easily in three. This one is not recommended.