Sunday, April 27, 2014

Whoozit (preserved by Eye Film Instituut, 2013 restoration by Lobster Films)

Whoozit (US 1928) starring, produced and written by Charley Bowers, directed by Harold L. Muller. In an Oriental apartment, the janitor is invited to join a smoke in the company of two harem girls.

US 1928. PC: Bowers Comedy Corp. D: Harold L. Muller. P+SC: Charles R. Bowers. C: Charley Bowers, Emily Gerdes, Theodore Lorch, Ann Brody, Kewpie Morgan, Ray Turner. Distributed by Educational Film Exchanges, 1 April, 1928. 
    Eye Film Instituut Nederland and Lobster Films present. The surviving second half restored digitally by Lobster Films in November 2013.  10'13"
    Viewed at home on a Lobster Films memory stick, 27 April 2014

From the Lobster Films on-screen introduction: Charley Bowers made 19 films between 1926 and 1930, mixing animation and live action. In 1935, these comedies were described by André Breton as the "black star of surrealism". Only 9 Bowers comedies still exist in their complete version. 7 were considered totally missing, including Whoozit, produced in 1928 by Bowers Comedy Corp. This unique 16 mm print was discovered in 2008 in the collections of the Eye Film Institute. It is incomplete, and only retains the second half of the original production. It was restored digitally by Lobster Films, Paris, in November 2013.

Every Charley Bowers comedy is a miracle, and since so many of them are gone, the discovery of a reel of a lost Charley Bowers is a cause for celebration. Thanks to Serge Bromberg I have been able to watch Whoozit (restored by Lobster Films in November 2013) a few times.

The main strength of Whoozit is the nightmarish atmosphere which is so consistent that the final revelation that it has all been a gas-inspired dream would be superfluous if it did not present an occasion for a final gag and a final jolt – that even a nightmare is preferable to the dreary reality of the bullied janitor.

As usual, Charley Bowers introduces two incompatible worlds: the world of technology and the world of weird animals.

The world of technology here is the world of the janitor in an apartment house where a voice tube is a major means of communication, and where objects are transported via a food elevator.

The weird animals in Whoozit are molluscs who emerge from their clam shells and seek instead shelter in a doghouse provided by CB in the basement.

There is a monster in this nightmare: a huge bearded killer with a giant razor who is out to get CB. He is omnipresent and can transform into anything and materialize anywhere.

The final comedy sequence is about CB having to look for "rajah's mystic spectacles". He finds them on a reading dog. Fleeing again from the killer he falls in the middle of two harem ladies, which is where he gets woken up.

Even rougher notes in extenso beyond the jump break.
Even rougher notes:

PART TWO. Educational Film Exchanges, Inc. Bowers Comedies – The janitor (CB) comes downstairs, notices the voice tube moving like a snake – the mollusc from a clam cries for help – CB mounts the food elevator and heaves himself up with the rope – the mollusc: "that big walrus is going to kill you and fry us!" – the molluscs come out of their clam shells – surrealistic stop motion animation – the mad bearded executioner with a razor appears in the food elevator – CB cuts the wires – weird mollusc animation – the sixth mollusc in search of its five friends – a Black accordeon player frightened – as a mollusc climbs inside his trousers – a doghouse in the basement – room for the molluscs – but the mad executioner emerges even from there – CB shuts the doghouse by nailing a plank – alerted on the voice tube – the mad killer again in the food elevator – CB ties the killer's feet – a resident needs help to pack – the killer emerges even from his trunk – he drops the trunk to the street – "janitor! take this back to the brewery!" – CB starts to carry a drunken resident – who transforms, too, into the killer – he's everywhere – the voice tube as the means of communication – the erect tube – "come up, quick!" – "father has lost Rajah's Mystic Spectacles" – "the magic glasses! they're lost! I'm ruined!" – an Oriental apartment – a learned poodle reads books wearing glasses – the mystic spectacles – through which a bird transforms into a fish – the fish sprays water – a long legged dog doll comes alive – grows a beard – takes a razor and starts to sharpen it – transforms into the killer whose razor is enormous – on the bed there are two harem girls – they invite CB – they are smoking a drug – the ladies competing for CB's attention – back to reality: CB the janitor is being woken up by two harridans – he has been inhaling gas from a pipe – "how about some steam?" – "where is my garbage pail?" – CB resorts quickly to the gas pipe again. The End.

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