Black and White, 20 Minutes
Among Buster Keaton’s short comedies, Cops is one of his most recognised and famous and with good reason. The first half of Cops does not have many splendid gags, but the second half greatly makes up for it. While not being utter genius of comedy, Keaton displays pure athletic ability, daring stunts of his own and simply hilarious comedy. At a runtime of 20 minutes, this piece of silent comedy will impress you with the gags and stunts performed by Keaton himself.
One of the most impressive things in the film for me was the ladder sequence. There is a ladder at a fence, that is half the size of it and Keaton climbs up it. Like a seesaw, it tips down to the other side, and whilst this is happening, he turns his body around on the ladder whilst it is going down. He sees police officers coming, so he shifts his weight to the other side of the ladder, rotating his body once more causing it to tip over. At this point, there are now police officers on both sides of the fence where he is then going back and forth very quickly. It is a hugely impressive gag; No wires, no stuntmen; just pure comedy from Keaton. You will be able to find the gag on youtube and I would suggest watching it.
Another great scene involves Keaton going down the street on his horse and carriage with all the furniture piled up at near house-height. There is currently a parade for police officers running, and an anarchist throws a bomb in to the parade. However, Keaton catches this bomb and lights his cigarette with it. The other interesting thing with this gag is it refers to reality and something that happened to a fellow comedian of the time.
In the early 1920’s comedian Harold Lloyd (Safety Last etc.), was on a photo shoot for his new character, and he was given a prop bomb. They lit the fuse and took images of him holding at and as the fuse got shorter, he drew it closer to his face. He also lit his cigarette. Little did he know it was a real bomb. It is said he lowered his hand just before the bomb exploded, which caused him to lose a thumb and a finger on one hand. This is a true chance survival as if he did not lower that bomb at that instant; his whole face might have been blown off.
The film is among Keaton’s best short film work because of its impressive comedy sequences, and it stands the test of time. Cops is quite revered as one of the greatest silent films, which I would have to disagree with as a big silent film fan. While the jokes are great, it is all the film has. The story and character side are not as strong, but hey, it is a silent comedy what do you expect, 2001?
Verdict: Cops is among Keaton’s best short reel work that has some excellent gags and well-executed comedy.
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10