January 26th, 2009

krazy koati

Every night she comes to take me out to dreamland

Turner Classic Movies showed the 1917 two-reeler Coney Island, starring Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, in a plot that doesn't quite matter so much since what's interesting to me is that it takes place at Luna Park as it existed in 1917. One grand thing about silent movies on location is that, for the most part, they really had to go to those locations and film them. There wasn't so much of this set-building thing unless you count where they'd do stuff set in Ancient Rome for the benefit of future History Channel programs that need cheap stock footage. So in watching the movie I was steadily distracted from the plot (which ends up with Arbuckle in drag) and shaking my head in amazement at people who'd go to an amusement park and a beach in more formal wear than they wear for their own weddings these days.

Old-time amusement parks are fascinating since whenever you see some pictures or footage of them they have rides that look unimaginably insane. You know the kind, like where people sit down on huge rapidly-spinning plates and wait for collars and cuffs to be caught so that the whirring plates will chew their bodies into a pasty goo? Or where you stand up in an open car and ride down an inclined plane to hit the water and spill out? You almost expect to see ``Climb this 40-foot-tall ladder and plummet onto our block of Wonder Pavement!'' Well, this time I noticed a ride I don't think I've seen before.

If I get the framing right it was called ``The Witching Waves'', and riders go in two-seater basket-cars, onto a track that's not just curled this way and that but which has a surface that vibrates up and down so cars are propelled in part by the waves, in part by gravity, in part by people getting out and pushing. And if the movie can be believed cars might be going in opposite directions. That can't have been how it really worked, as look what the movie crash looked like. And yet, boy does that look like fun. It'd be so grand if we could have rides like that which weren't obvious perils to life and limb.

Trivia: Roscoe Arbuckle's third movie for Mack Sennett, Passions, He Had Three, was for some reason shipped as Possums, He Had Three. Source: Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett, Simon Louvish.

Currently Reading: Shakespeare: The World As Stage, Bill Bryson.