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Mishaps of Musty Suffer vol. 2, The

Undercrank Productions // Unrated // April 15, 2015
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted May 14, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Shorts:

Fans of silent comedy shorts will be excited to learn that Undercrank Productions has released a second volume of Musty Suffer shorts staring Harry Watson Jr. The first volume [reviewed here] was a lot of fun and this quartet of one-reelers (along with some great bonus items) is just as enjoyable. Sourced from prints preserved by the Library of Congress and with newly composed piano scores by Ben Model, this is a wonderful collection of unjustly overlooked shorts.

Harry Watson Jr., who had a lead act in the Ziegfeld Follies at one time, stars in these films (referred to as 'whirls') playing Musty Suffer, a tramp with a magic horseshoe that summons his hobo-fairy godfather. (Oddly enough, the fairy godfather part is only mentioned in some of the shorts... it was a unique angle and I'm surprised they didn't use it more often.) He gets into all sorts of scrapes and odd situations, mainly involving jobs that he's taken, that are often surreal, unique and very funny.

The first whirl, Out of Order, sees Musty gets a job in an amusement arcade doing... pretty much everything. He sells tickets at the booth, shines shoes (though he doesn't do a very good job at that, ultimately whacking the customer in the shin and giving him a crutch instead of cleaning his shoes) and he's even a target in the shooting gallery. He has the most fun operating the escalator until, goofing around on it, he breaks it. A nice short.

Next up is Showing Some Speed, apparently a continuation of the short released just before this one, Blow Your Horn (available on the first volume.) Musty has the same delivery boy job, and the same boss. This time he has to carry a cast-iron stove to a recipient, and though no one is home when he arrives at the address, Musty comes up with a way to complete his delivery. He's also called on to go to a restaurant and wake up a waiter, and help a cheating gambler out of a tight spot.

Strictly Private is my favorite short on this disc. In this bizarre, but funny, reel Musty manages to capture a wild horse by putting salt on its tale. Taking out his magic horseshoe he wishes that he had a carriage and driver's outfit so he could make some money as a taxi driver. His fairy godfather complies and before you know it Musty is looking for fares. The reason this short is so wonderfully strange is because the horse isn't a real one... it is two guys in a costume. I'm not why they went that route instead of just using a real, live horse, but the result is pleasingly peculiar.

The final offering on this volume is the very last Musty Suffer short that was made, Musty's Vacation. It is another nicely odd vehicle that would have made a good cartoon too. Musty finds a ticket that's good for 50 meals at a particular restaurant. Happy with his windfall, he rushes to try it out, but is denied service because he doesn't look like the man pictured on the ticket. Never one to just give up, Musty visits a doctor specializing in reconstructive surgery to get his appearance changed: his feet are enlarged by putting them in a mold and pouring molten metal on them, he's stretched on a rack to become taller, and even undergoes a treatment to make his head bigger. Surreal, wacky, fun. This short is a little bitter sweet, however, since it was the very last one made.

The DVD:


Like the first volume, Ben Model provides the music for these shorts from scores he composed, and they are great. These tracks fit the subject matter and the music (preformed on both organ and piano) really helps to bring the films to life. There are no dropouts or other audio defects.


The quality of the image is just what I've come to expect from Undercrank Productions. These shorts are just shy of being 100 years old and have been preserved by the Library of Congress. They look very good too. The image is generally clear and the definition runs from good to excellent. There is some minor print damage, scratches and a few spots, but these are minor. Overall these are a good looking set of films.


There are two extras included on the disc, and they're both great. First up is The Actors' Fund Field Day from 1910. A group of actors appear in a ball park and entertain the fans with a parade, bits from their acts, and some fun contests including a foot race between chorus girls. Annie Oakley does some trick shooting (which would have been more impressive if the cameraman had thought to include the targets in the frame) and Harry Watson Jr. and his vaudeville partner, George Bickel, show a bit of their big band routine. They were appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies at the time so they weren't bush leaguers.

The second bonus also features Bickel and Watson. It's a three reel edit of the feature The Fixer, which was originally five reels. Unfortunately, it has only survived in this shortened form. This was the film that earned Watson his series of one-reelers as Musty Suffer and it's quite interesting to see him playing another character. The movie itself feels very rushed (which isn't much of a surprise) but one wonders if a better editor would have made a film that's a little easier to follow. As it is, the film is a bit disjointed (they even show the same intertitle card twice) and the humor is only so-so. Still, it's a great to see Watson in his pre-Musty days and a nice inclusion on the disc.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this collection just as much as the first. Surreal, inventive, wacky, and all around fun, this disc comes Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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