Saturday, November 19, 2011

After Dinner Bloat

The Library of Congress Paper Print Collection includes an early American Mutoscope and Biograph comedy called A Champion Beer Drinker (1903). The library's records describe the film as follows: "The action begins with one waiter after another bringing our hero glasses of beer, which he drinks in rapid succession. Time after time the waiters carry in trays filled with glasses of beer. Finally, two waiters arrive and the beer drinker turns into a beer barrel." Presumably, this final gag looked something like this:  

 Below Zero (1930) 

Or this:
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)

Corporal distortion was common in early comedies. In The Chinese Rubbernecks (1903), a Chinese laundryman becomes infuriated when a co-worker clumsily burns him with a hot iron. He grabs the co-worker by the head to stop him from fleeing, which causes the co-worker's neck to stretch across the frame. As soon as the head is released, it snaps back into place. In Happy Hooligan Turns Burglar (1902), a maid attempts to reassemble a policeman blown to pieces by a burglar's bomb, but she makes a mess of the job and the policeman comes out with a foot for a hand and a hand for a foot.

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