Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum and sees PATHS TO PARADISE and a couple of shorts.

Last weekend I was back at my favorite local theater that plays silent films every week.

First up was a Harold Lloyd short, CHOP SUEY AND CO. Harold Lloyd is a young cop assigned to Chinatown (if I'm not mistaken, a Chinatown where the "writing" on the signs is just random scribbles and not Chinese). Some of the racist elements make me cringe, but Harold Lloyd is always cool.

Next up was CHASING CHOO-CHOOS. In 1927 Monty Banks made a feature film called PLAY SAFE, which was a flop. So they took out all best parts and turned it into a non-stop action short. Monty works in a factory, and woos the heiress, meaning he'll soon be on easy street and the men managing the factory will be out on their asses. So they hatch a plan to kidnap her and frame Monty, but little old Monty (who's too much of a shrimp to be a believable action hero) comes to the rescue, culminating in a long and exciting fight/chase on a train.

Then, after intermission, we got to the feature program, PATHS TO PARADISE. Raymond Griffith and Betty Compson star as dueling thieves. Betty plays Molly, who runs a little club that fleeces wealthy tourists looking for a genuine "underground" experience (includes a quick change to make their place look like a Chinatown gambling den--what is this, racist Chinese stereotypes night?) Griffith shows up as an unnamed man (or rather a man with a name for every occasion), who triple-crosses Molly and her gang. The duel heightens when they both go after the same diamond necklace that a wealthy plutocrat has bought for his daughter's wedding. Eventually, they have to work together to escape with the necklace to Mexico (from San Francisco, attracting the cops from Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego along the way). Rumor has it that there's a missing final reel where they grow a conscious, return to America, and return the necklace. But I kind of like where it ends in this version.

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