THE MYSTERY OF THE LEAPING FISH
The Mystery of the Leaping Fish
(Triangle Film Corp., USA, 1916)
Dir.: John Emerson, script: Tod Browning
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks (Coke Ennyday), Bessie Love ( The Little fish blower), Alma Rubens (The Female Accomplice)
DCP, 26’, tinted, intertitle/subtitle: EN/PL, source: Lobster Film
Famous detective Coke Ennyday gets a case from the police about a mysterious man who is (quite literally) rolling in money. To discover the source of his wealth, the detective, armed with a battery of syringes filled with cocaine, goes to the accessory rental point at the beach. The inflatable "leaping fish" available there, and the girl who blows them up, will play a key role in Ennyday's unconventional investigation.
One of the most unusual parodies of the Sherlock Holmes stories, this is a crazy, absurd comedy with a bizarre, self-referential and ironic punch line.
The film uses caricatural exaggeration to lampoon the genius detective, his characteristic clothes, scientific methods and... his drug addiction – hitherto unexposed on the screen. His cocaine abuse is suggested in his very name and surname (i.e. cocaine any day), and also by the numerous syringes which feature more prominently than his pipe. Demonstrating his drug habit in a very grotesque way (showing him both injecting himself and being given a hit by others) allowed the filmmakers to portray the detective as an anti-hero, and they also went against other conventions of the genre, for example by having a female character who is able to get herself out of difficulty perfectly well on her own. The slapstick comedy, which was a nod to the famous Keystone Cops series, perfectly harmonises with the effect of the nonsense which comes across on the screen with the literal treatment of the title cards.
This crazy comedy has gained cult status. For the lead actor, Douglas Fairbanks, this "hallucinogenic odyssey into the absurd" - as the actor's biographer Jeffrey Vance described it - was "undoubtedly the most bizarre film" that the actor ever made. The Hollywood star even tried to get it withdrawn from distribution. He felt awkward doing slapstick, and the character of the eccentric detective clearly stood out against the background of the noble heroes from costume dramas in which he would soon specialise. (KW)
April 5 | 22.00 | Iluzjon cinema
live music: Diomede