Review: Tango Tangles (a.k.a. Charlie's Recreation, 1914)

>> Saturday, February 21, 2009



USA/Silent/B&W-12m./Dir: Mack Sennett/Wr: Mack Sennett/Cast: Charles Chaplin (Tipsy Dancer), Ford Sterling (Bandleader), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (Clarinetist), Sadie Lampe (Hat Check Girl)

The early comedy shorts produced by Keystone studios were fairly lowbrow and low budget affairs; and in order to minimize production costs, many of the films were shot guerrilla-style. Producer/director Mack Sennett would often hustle his comedy troupe to public events and have his actors adlib amongst the ready-made spectacle. This was how Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” character was introduced to the public--improvising during an actual children’s push-car race in his second released short, Kid Auto Races at Venice, CA (1914). Chaplin’s sixth short under his Keystone contract, Tango Tangles, was another impromptu affair, with the comedian’s inebriated adlibs taking place in a public dance hall.

Chaplin, clean-shaven and dressed in normal street clothes, totters tipsily into a dance hall. After his attempts to join in the terpsichorean merriment land him on his back, the drunk is directed to the cloak room to discard his hat and cane. Finding the hat check girl attractive, the liquored lothario flirts with her, not knowing that the girl already has a couple of dueling admirers, the band leader (Ford Sterling) and the clarinetist (Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle). Of course, the bandleader objects when the amorous inebriate takes the girl for a spin around the dance floor. The resulting melee spills from the dance floor into the cloak room, where Chaplin and the bandleader try to beat each other senseless while wearing the same coat.

Even by Keystone standards, Tango Tangles is a pretty sub-par outing. The plot is nearly nonexistent and the film mainly consists of characters jumping up and down, pushing each other, and falling over. Given little to do, each of the three lead comedians handles the situation differently. Ford Sterling gestures and gyrates to an extent far beyond cartoonish, upstaging the other actors in the worst way possible. Whereas, Roscoe Arbuckle more or less disappears into the background. Only Chaplin occasionally elevates the proceedings with a bit of inspired inebriated shtick, such as when he tries to lean on a table and misjudges the distance. Instead of moving his body slightly, Chaplin moves the entire table. This more subtle style of slapstick didn’t mesh well with the Keystone brand of knockabout comedy, so it is understandable that Chaplin was anxious to move on after only one year at Sennett's studio.

While Tango Tangles has little to recommend it as a comedy short subject, it does have significant historical value. Fans of silent film will enjoy this rare opportunity to witness Chaplin clowning without his familiar mustache and tramp costume, while soused cinema enthusiasts will see the seeds of sauced slapstick that Chaplin exploited to greater effect in later shorts and features.

Drinks Consumed--Sadly none. Chaplin enters the film with a full tank and flies on that gas without refilling.

Intoxicating Effects
--Staggering, stumbling, flirting, brawling, and public disturbance

Potent Quotables--TITLE CARD (introducing Chaplin): One of the early arrivals, a little worse for the wear.

Video Availability--Tango Tangles, like most of the public domain Keystone shorts, is available on numerous budget DVDs from companies such as Delta and Madacy. The short is often listed under the alternate title, Charlie’s Recreation, and the 16mm print from which it is derived is pretty ragged. However, an effort is underway by the British Film Institute to restore all of the Chaplin Keystone shorts, so the Keystones will eventually be available on video in improved condition. The film as it currently survives can also be viewed through the embedded video above.

Similarly Sauced Cinema
--Chaplin bellied up to the bar yet again in his very next short, His Favorite Pastime (1914).

Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp
The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion
Chaplin: Genius of the Cinema

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Review: Drunken Master II (a.k.a. The Legend of Drunken Master, 1994)

>> Sunday, February 15, 2009

HK/C-102m./Dir: Lau Kar-Leung and Jackie Chan/Wr: Edward Tang, Man-Ming Tong, Gai Chi Yuen/Cast: Jackie Chan (Wong Fei-Hung), Ti Lung (Wong Kei-Ying, Fei-Hung’s Father), Anita Mui (Mrs. Wong, Fei-Hung’s Step Mother), Lau Kar-Leung (General Fu Wen-Chi), Ken Lo (John), Ho Sung Pak (Henry), Felix Wong (Tsang)

Sixteen years after Jackie Chan had a career-making hit with the kung-fu comedy Drunken Master (1978), he returned to the part of hooch-happy hero Wong-Fei Hung in Drunken Master II. Chan was still youthful enough to pull off the part of the naughty boy who becomes an invincible fighter when fortified with fermented fluids; and to prove that he hadn’t lost a step, both the stunt work and the juicing were supercharged in the sequel. The resulting concoction turned out to be nothing less than the greatest alky action picture ever produced.

Having finished his tutelage under Sua Hua-Chi (who isn’t mentioned in this film), Wong Fei-Hung is back with his family and still causing mischief in the sequel. Returning by train from a shopping trip with his father, Fei-Hung hides a ginseng root in another passenger’s luggage to avoid paying tax. He ends up paying for his dishonesty with numerous cuts, bruises, and burns, when he retrieves the wrong package from the other traveler’s trunk. Instead of ginseng, Fei-Hung discovers that he has the Emperor’s jade seal, and he finds himself up against a British plot to smuggle China’s treasures out of the country. With high-kicking henchmen and ax-wielding thugs on his trail, Wong Fei-Hung needs something stronger than wine to add power to his punch this time around.

Many consider Drunken Master II to be Jackie Chan’s finest film, and I can’t help but agree. This fast-paced flick contains some of Chan’s greatest action set pieces, including the final showdown in an iron factory, where Wong Fei-Hung is kicked repeatedly and thrown into a pit of hot coals by Ken Lo (one of Chan’s real-life bodyguards), before saving the day by Hulking-out on industrial alcohol. Most of the stunt work is performed by Chan and the other actors themselves, which adds additional drama to each fall, body blow, and encounter with fire.

Although audiences for Drunken Master II are likely to be most interested in the kung-fu fight scenes, the film doesn’t skimp on story and the action emerges naturally from the narrative. The acting is also above average for a chopsocky flick. Jackie Chan is a natural comedian as well as an athlete, which helps with his numerous drunk scenes. At the same time, he is completely believable when called upon to display emotion and play it straight. Jackie receives tremendous support from the rest of the cast, including Ti Lung as Fei-Hung’s serious father and director Lau Kar-Leung as a General who also tries to keep China’s treasures out of the hands of smugglers. However, the real standout of the cast is Anita Mui, who nearly steals the film with her mugging in the part of Fei Hung’s scheming stepmother (despite being eight years younger than Chan in real life).

It is unlikely that future films will ever surpass Drunken Master II in terms of combined action and alcohol consumption. Soused cinema enthusiasts should consider it essential viewing.

Drinks Consumed--Red and white wine, cognac XO, and industrial alcohol

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, slurred speech, brawling, physical violence, harmonizing, hiccups, destruction of property, vomiting, passing out, blowing bubbles, and temporary blindness and mental impairment

Potent Quotables--WONG KEI-YING: Fei-hung never forgets that he once won with drunken boxing. I’ve my reasons for not letting him use it.
FO SANG: There’s nothing wrong with drunken boxing.
WONG KEI-YING: You’ve to drink to fight it, and you may get drunk. Let alone fighting, you can’t even stand steady. He gets into trouble because of this.
FO SANG: Don’t drink so much then.
WONG KEI-YING: No, he must drink a proper portion before it becomes effective. He gets powerful but feels no pain when beaten; so it gives the wrong illusion of being powerful. A drinker knows he can’t stop drinking. Is it worth being a drunkard to use this move? Water floats but also capsizes boats.

Video Availability--When Disney released the film in the U.S., they dubbed it in English, made cuts, and changed the music and sound effects. The resulting film, re-titled The Legend of Drunken Master, is virtually unwatchable. This version is available on a Region 1 DVD from Buena Vista, but it should be avoided. The original, uncut version is available on a Chinese DVD from Thakral, which will play on Region 1 DVD players. However, the Chinese release is far from perfect. The aspect ratio on the Thakral DVD has been trimmed from 2.35:1 to 1.85:1, and the print shows wear and speckles. Hopefully, Drunken Master II will eventually receive an improved DVD release, but for now, the Thakral DVD is the best available.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Jackie Chan played another drunken master in his 2008 team-up with Jet Li, The Forbidden Kingdom.

Drunken Master (DVD)
Drunken Master 2 [Letterboxed VHS]

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Booze News: The 2nd Annual Cocktail Film Fest!

>> Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tales of the Cocktail and The W Hotel New Orleans will be holding their 2nd Annual Cocktail Film Fest on Saturday, April 11th; and once again, Miss Charming herself, Cheryl Charming will be hosting the festivities. Tickets go on sale on February 15th at www.TalesoftheCocktail.com. Check out the press release below for all of the pertinent details:

Tales of the Cocktail Announces
The 2nd Annual Cocktail Film Fest

Tickets on Sale February 15, 2009


NEW ORLEANS, LA – February 7, 2009 – Tales of the Cocktail and W New Orleans invite movie buffs and libation lovers to indulge in celebrating the cocktail in three films. Cheryl Charming aka Miss Charming™, cocktail author and founder of MissCharming.com, plays hostess for the silver screenings.

The Film Fest schedule is as follows:
Saturday, April 11, 2009
4 pm. King Creole
6 pm. Meet-n-Greet Dean Sernells
8 pm. Cocktail
Midnight Moulin Rouge

*Seating for all films are dinner party style*

Film Fest hostess, Cheryl Charming a.k.a. Miss Charming™ has been in the food and beverage industry since 1976, tending bar, authoring cocktail related books (nine so far), teaching bar tricks to Walt Disney World bartenders, cocktail consulting and teaching cocktail classes. She is a member of The Bartenders Guild and The Museum of the American Cocktail. She resides in Downtown Orlando and maintains the website MissCharming.com.

Chef Roberto Bustillo, Jr. of Zoë Restaurant will prepare inspired hors d’oeuvres for the day. Chef Bustillo has won two Gold Fleur de Lis Awards from New Orleans Wine and Food Experience in 2006 and 2007 and a Silver Fleur de Lis Award in 2008. Zoë Restaurant and Lounge is located on the second floor of the W New Orleans.

Saturday, April 11th

King Creole (1958)
4 pm.
This Elvis Presley summer hit of 1958 was filmed in New Orleans when he was 22 years old. The cast and crew blocked off the entire top floor of the Roosevelt Hotel (now Fairmont Hotel and soon to be Waldorf Astoria). King Creole was Elvis' last B&W film and is considered by critics to be his best. Elvis plays a nightclub busboy turned nightclub singer and even though there are many bar scenes not one single cocktail is mentioned, so we will be serving famous New Orleans cocktails including the Sazerac, Hurricane, Scarlet O'Hara, Ramos Gin Fizz, and French 75. Retro candy and popcorn will be served and popular soundtracks to look forward include Trouble, Hard Headed Woman, King Creole, New Orleans, and Dixieland Rock.

Dean Serneels is the Mad MXologist
6-8 pm.
Come meet Dean Serneels as the Mad Mixologist! This Dean of Drinks is an Inventor, Hospitality Consultant, Entertainer, Motivator, Flipping Mixologist and owner of Flairco.com. Dean will be sharing his skills in a hands-on bottle flipping workshop and will also entertain you with his magic and moves on the bar. Dean has won over 22 bartending awards, has appeared on the FOOD Network and as the bartender trainer on CMT's Search for the Ultimate Coyote. Dean is also the creative mind behind all of the Flairco brand bartending products. Join Dean as he flips, spins and tosses the fictitious Blue Turquoise from the film, Cocktail, Pink Squirrels, and Sex on the Beaches. Landshark beer will also be available.

Cocktail (1988)
8 pm.
Cocktail finally turns 21! And what better way to celebrate this summer hit of '88 than with dinner, drinks and a movie New York/Jamaican style! This film kick-started modern flair bartending worldwide and introduced three hit songs, Kokomo, Don't Worry, Be Happy and Addicted To Love. We celebrate the 21st birthday with Jamaican style food and birthday cake.
Special guest star, Dean Serneels will be present demonstrating the moves seen in the film.

Moulin Rouge(2001)
Midnight
Can-Can you join us for a midnight enchanting screening of this lush and visually-rich modern musical that was nominated for 8 Oscars? The Green Fairy will be upon us as we serve Absinthe in glass blown fountains at each table. Nibbles, bottled water and French wine will also be available.

Tickets and Special Rates
Tickets are required for Tales of the Cocktail Film Fest and can be purchased online at www.TalesoftheCocktail.com as of February 15, 2009 for $25 per showing. Ticket packages are available through the website. A special room rate of $99 at the W Hotel New Orleans available Thursday, April 9, 2009 through Monday, April 13, 2009. Please use promotion code LIF. For event guests, a rate of $12 per car will be available. For questions, please call 1-877-WHOTELS for assistance. Book a room online at www.TalesoftheCocktail.com.

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Booze News: 100th Review on the Way!

>> Friday, February 6, 2009


I did a quick count, and Still Making Moonshine (2008) was my 99th soused cinema review for Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide. If all goes as planned (and I don't spend the weekend in an alcoholic stupor), my 100th review will be revealed very soon.

Does anyone care to guess which firewater-fueled flick will help us pass the three digit mark?

Cheers,
garv

P.S. - (Posted 2/8/09)
I caught a cold. Consequently, I'm self-medicating; and it will probably be next weekend before I am able to post my 100th review. All the better to build the suspense, I guess.

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Review: Still Making Moonshine (2008)

>> Sunday, February 1, 2009

USA/C-62m./Dir: Kelly L. Riley/Cast: Jim Tom Hendrick (Himself), Jerry Jumper (Himself), William “Birdman” Bird (Himself), Pat Williams (Herself), Gilford Williams (Himself), Corey Stephens (Himself)

Documentary filmmaker Kelly L. Riley takes us back to Graham County, North Carolina in Still Making Moonshine to reconnect with homemade hooch producer Jim Tom Hendrick, the subject of his previous documentary, Moonshine (2000). Jim Tom proves to be just as colorful in this feature-length follow-up. While he is very much the same unpretentious character we remember from the first film, the good-humored distiller has modernized his methods a bit. Rather than cooking his whiskey outdoors over an open fire, he now heats his brew inside a trailer over a propane flame. Still, despite the technological advancements, Jim Tom manages to set his pants on fire.

As in the first film, Jim Tom walks us through the process of brewing illegal corn whiskey and the precautions required to keep the enterprise under wraps. However, this expanded sequel goes even further by allowing us to witness Jim Tom fashioning a handmade still out of sheets of copper--an art that has been lost by others in the area, as drug production has supplanted the moonshine trade.

Kelly Riley also gives us a good look at Jim Tom’s surrounding community--from the pious, church-centric residents of the dry county (including Jim Tom’s sister, Pat Williams) to a few other oddballs that share Jim Tom’s rogue spirit. From the latter group, the film dedicates the most time to Jim Tom’s friend and fellow bootlegger, Jerry Jumper, a Cherokee Indian who believes that the hills are inhabited by little people. Jerry takes the time to age his home brew in small oak barrels; and while Jim Tom admits to occasionally partaking of Jerry’s product, Hendrick explains that he doesn’t age his own stuff, because “it don’t last long enough.”

With Still Making Moonshine, Riley once again proves himself to be a talented filmmaker with an excellent eye for composition and a gift for effective editing. Like better-known documentarian Errol Morris, Riley also has a knack for finding interesting eccentrics on which to point his camera, and the new subjects that are introduced in Still Making Moonshine are nearly as absorbing as Jim Tom is himself. Most importantly, Riley is an excellent storyteller. The viewer comes away from the film feeling that they have gotten a taste for traditions that that are quickly fading into the past--not just the brewing of white lightning, but also the language and culture of the Cherokee, and the fading countryside itself. Although this documentary is nearly three times as long as Riley’s previous work, it still leaves one thirsty for more.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey (homemade and store-bought) and beer

Intoxicating Effects--Harmonizing, memory blackouts (discussed), and drinking and driving

Potent Quotables--JIM TOM: I don’t make rotgut. I make Tennessee sippin’ whiskey.

Video Availability--Still Making Moonshine DVD (CreateSpace). You can also take a small taste below.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Check out the director’s earlier short, Moonshine (2000). The two films combined give you the full, 140 proof kick.

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About Me

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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.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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