The Extraordinary Waiter (1902)
Article 5817 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Walter R. Booth
What it is: Special effects comedy
An irate patron keeps attacking a black waiter who appears to be unkillable.
Since the waiter survives being beheaded, I’m going to say that this early silent short qualifies for me to include it in my review project. I’m pretty sure the short is intended to be comic. The fact that the action takes place between a white customer and a black waiter makes me wonder if there’s a racial message here, but frankly, it’s rather hard to tell. The waiter may be a white in blackface (and it probably is), but the camera doesn’t get close enough to the actors to say for sure. If the waiter was being incompetent, it doesn’t appear in his actions; in fact, he’s more of a special effect than a character (and in some of the scenes, he’s obviously played by a dummy). The customer is the one who behaves badly; he comes across as tyrannical, ill-mannered and cruel for very little reason. At heart, I think the short mostly exists for its chance to do a special effect of a man being decapitated, regaining his head, and coming back to life.