The Haunted House (1921, Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton)

The Haunted House has some excellent gags. There’s a lot of set gags in the finale, when bank clerk Keaton ends up in the–well, the haunted house. His coworker–a delightfully evil Joe Roberts–is actually a counterfeiter who uses the haunted house to print money; the haunted bit is just a cover. Lots of great comedic set pieces, including the collapsing stairs.

Earlier, there’s even a nice bit with Keaton doing lower key physical comedy when he can’t get dollar bills off his hands (there was an incident with some glue). The Haunted House is a smooth experience, with lots of pay-off, at least in terms of the gags.

Keaton and co-director Cline are somewhat limited in their ambitions for House. The gags are good, but lengthy. There’s nowhere near enough story. House is funny stuff and extremely well executed, but it finishes up somewhat underweight.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton; director of photography, Elgin Lessley; produced by Joseph M. Schenck; released by Metro Pictures Corporation.

Starring Buster Keaton (Bank Clerk), Virginia Fox (Bank President’s Daughter) and Joe Roberts (Bank Cashier).