Buster Keaton, “The Haunted House”, 1921, Directors Buster Keaton and Edward F Cline, Cinematographer Elgin Lessley≠≠≠
Written and directed by Buster Keaton and Edward F. Cline, the 1921 “The Haunted House”, an American two-reel silent comedy film, starred actor and comedian Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton. Keaton is best known for his silent film work with its physical comedy and his stoic, deadpan expression.
“The Haunted House” was shot in a time of simplistic comedic storytelling.The film used a generic, two-decades old story of haunted houses occupied by criminals, one which remained a favorite of theater audiences. Cinematography was done by special effects artist Elgin Lessley, a groundbreaking hand-cranked cameraman who had previously worked with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The film was produced by Joseph M. Schenck who became the second president of United Artists Studio, and later, co-founded Twentieth Century Pictures with Darryl F. Zanuck.
In the film, Buster Keaton plays a teller at a successful bank who, in the process of thwarting a robbery, is mistaken for one of the thieves. He takes refuge in an old house unaware that it is a rehearsal space for a theatrical troupe clad in scary costumes. Keaton and the robbers, also hiding there, have many encounters with the costumed actors and the house’s booby traps.
After it is revealed that the thieves’ leader is the bank’s manager, Keaton suffers a blow to the head which renders him unconscious. A dream sequence follows in which he is revived by angels and taken to Heaven. Denied entrance by Saint Peter, Keaton is sent to Hell instead. At the end of the twenty-one minute film, he regains consciousness to realize only a few seconds had passed.
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