Review: One A.M. (1916)

>> Thursday, December 28, 2006

USA/Silent/B&W-25 m./Dir: Charles Chaplin/Wr: Charles Chaplin/Cast: Charles Chaplin (Drunk), Albert Austin (Taxi Driver)

Charlie Chaplin, filmdom’s first megastar, owes his entrance into the movies to booze-spiked humor. In 1913, Mack Sennett invited the then unknown British comedian to Keystone studios after seeing him perform his “drunk act” on an American stage tour. Chaplin soon became Sennett’s top box office draw, and he often mined his inebriated stage shtick in his earliest short subjects. But Chaplin’s greatest recreation of his drunk act came three years after his film debut with the amazing 25-minute short subject, One A.M.

The short consists of a rich rummy’s attempts to get upstairs to his bed after a night on the town. Chaplin takes this simple premise and turns it into a one-man tour de force, as every prop (a goldfish bowl, throw rugs, dual staircases, taxidermic animals, a clock, and a coat rack) becomes a malevolent obstacle standing between him and his goal. This culminates in the film’s highlight, Chaplin’s epic battle with a Murphy bed that refuses to stay on the floor. Not only was this short experimental at the time--apart from a brief appearance of Albert Austin as the cab driver delivering Charlie home, Chaplin performs the short solo--it also set the bar for staggering slapstick.

Drinks Consumed--Mystery liquor in a glass decanter (possibly Brandy)

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, and destruction of property

Potent Quotables--TITLE CARD: That’s the fastest round of drinks I ever saw!

Video Availability--The Mutual shorts have received numerous releases, but the set to pick up is The Chaplin Mutual Comedies: 90th Anniversary Edition (Image).
This release restores over five minutes of newly discovered footage to One A.M. Previous video versions run only 20 minutes long.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Chaplin’s shorts His Favorite Pastime (1914), The Rounders (1914), A Night Out (1915), A Night in the Show (1915) and The Cure (1917), as well as his feature-length masterpiece, City Lights (1931), are must see comedies with loads of loaded laughs.

Unknown Chaplin: The Master at Work (DVD)
The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion
Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema


edP December 28, 2006 at 5:42 PM  

How can you be sure enough to even guess "possibly brandy" from the mystery liquor in a decanter...

Ons second thought, I seem to remember it look like a brandy decanter.

My decanter!

garv December 29, 2006 at 2:43 PM  

One of the most difficult things in reviewing these films is trying to document all of the types of alcohol consumed. When I wrote the "Soused Cinema" article for Modern Drunkard Magazine, I had to walk frame-by-frame through a scene in The Bank Dick to read the label on a bottle to determine that the "Poltice" Fields was being served was actually Rye Whiskey.

edP December 29, 2006 at 8:47 PM  

I like the format though - with recap, your comments and the categories at the end. Very punchy dude (not punch drukny)...the next review is great too from the drinks consumed, the quotable etc... and my memories of watching that film with you and our departed friend.

Um, maybe I should've made these comments on the Withnail and I post.

And I'm not even drunk.

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

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