Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Move over Melies
Charlie Bowers was making silent movie comedies during the era of legends like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin but by the time he died in the mid 1940's he had been forgotten and his films had all but disappeared. Back in 2003 a 2-disc set of some of his long lost films surfaced and I was happy to find his work as bizarre and inventive as anything else I've seen in comedy, silent or otherwise.
Bowers was also a cartoonist and animator whose live-action films contain numerous stop-motion gags of incredible detail. Any student of animation comedy should check these films out, clips are on YouTube but the complete 2 disc DVD is really worth owning. At least one "new" title has surfaced since the release of the DVD, and it's maybe the craziest one of all. Thanks to YouTube, it's viewable in it's entirety: "THERE IT IS" abounds with insane sight gags that rival anything in animation for sheer cartooniness.
As a physical presence Bowers is something of a cipher, but he makes up on the directing, writing and technical fronts with his relentlessly surreal stories and gags. The "Scotland Yard" sequence alone looks like something Monty Python might have done four decades later. Bio notes mention that though he passed all too quickly into obscurity he was a favorite with audiences for a brief period in the late 20's and early 30's, and I have to guess that numerous animation greats like Bob Clampett, Tex Avery and maybe even Dr. Seuss were among his fans.
(Many thanks to "StorageVintage" for uploading this rare gem!)