We take it for granted today, but the popular view of electricity around the turn of the 20th century was similar to how your parents or grandparents probably viewed the Internet in the 1990s.

This newfangled invention that was coming into everybody’s homes was amazing and fun, but it also had strange powers that were bound to cause trouble.

Of course, avant-garde filmmakers and comedians had a ball with that attitude.

Spanish Surrealism

Here is Segundo de Chomón‘s 1908 film, The Electric Hotel, a truly silent film (scores written for these films quite often are still under copyright, even though the film itself has been released into the public domain).

De Chomón also stars in the film as the magnificently bewhiskered tourist in the checkered suit.

This is actually one of the more sane Segundo de Chomón films. Compared to modern animation, it’s clunky until you realize that we might not have such a wealth of animation studios today if people like him hadn’t played around with this stuff 105 years ago.

Of course, all that begs the question – we know that men indeed did rock facial hair like that back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, but did they also wear checkered suits? And if they did, why, oh why, did it ever go out of fashion?

Wish I had some musical talent – a manic score for that film would be hilarious!

American Slapstick

In 1922, Buster Keaton came up with a better plot line and made The Electric House:

This is actually the second version of the short film.

According to IMDb, Keaton – who was probably the closest any human being has ever come to being a Toon – did break his ankle on the escalator. While recovering, he worked on other projects and then started fresh on The Electric House again.

Very little is known about the earlier version of Electric House, and no filmed scenes for it have been found.

Categories: Saturday Silents, Silent movies

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