The Hoose-Gow

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

This is a pretty good little film. It’s modest, a little ragged even, as so many of the L&H shorts were. As often happened, it features one little bit of business that is so good as to be positively historical. Stan decides that he wants to eat an apple. He decides to put the entire apple in his mouth. He discovers, too late, that he shouldn’t have done it. The camera calmly watches as Stan tries to break the apple down in there, to situate it, or move it around, or pry it out again. He fails at every turn. The shot continues, uninterrupted, as Stan not only wrestles with this physical dilemma, but demonstrates a tremendous array of plausible, beautifully performed emotional responses. He is surprised. He is put off. He is perturbed. He is frustrated. And then he starts to get really distressed. As with Chaplin, who could keep doing funny things while the stakes became very high and serious (cf. The Vagabond, The Kid, City Lights), Stan is simultaneously executing a bit of comic business and convincing us that his very life is in jeopardy. Given our affection for this dim, dear personage, the effect is positively traumatic. We love him. We’re losing him!

We don’t actually do so, of course. Ollie’s frequent, customary direct address/appeal to the camera is especially piquant on this particular occasion. And then they go on, such that you might not remember, might not even have noticed that you’ve just witnessed a condensed rendering of The Death of Ivan Ilyich! Just amazing.