Sunday, September 27, The Milwaukee Film Festival held its only screening of classic comedies “The Electric House” and “Safety Last!” While technical issues caused an almost 30 minute delay, the black and white silent comedies accompanied by the Oriental Theater’s Kimball Organ soon made the audience forget any delay.
The Oriental Theater’s Kimball Pipe Organ is America’s largest with over 3,000 pipes. If this weren’t enough to attract an audience, the organ was played by critically-acclaimed, world renowned accompanist Scott Foppiano. Film fest regulars got a special preview to Foppiano’s talent before the Opening Night feature, “Youth,” when he played selections from “The Phantom of the Opera” among others.
“The Electric House” stars Buster Keaton as a botanist who is mistaken for an electrician and hired by a millionaire to improve upon his house. Things go haywire when the millionaire invites a group of investors to the house just as the actual electrician comes to sabotage the electric house as a form of revenge on the botanist. This classic comical short relies heavily on slapstick humor, for which Keaton is so famously known. What’s truly amazing about the 1922 film is how, nearly a century later, audiences are still awestruck and entertained by the innovation shown in the features of the electric house.
A 23 mm print of “Safety Last!” followed “The Electric House” with Harold Lloyd starring as a boy who makes his way to the big city to “make good” before his love with accompany and marry him. Maintaining a job is hard enough for “Boy” with a strict supervisor and ravenous department store customers, but things go from hectic to manic when he gets caught up in a bargain to climb the side of a very tall building. While this feature certainly plays on physical comedy, it more heavily relies on smart, witty humor. There is also a lot of situational humor, plays on perspective, and suspense, making it an even more thrilling film.
“The Electric House” and “Safety Last!” are entertaining enough on their own, but with the Kimball Pipe Organ accompanying the two selections, the audience was left awestruck. Foppiano beautifully provided the soundtrack to both pieces, engulfing the audience in a world that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience as closely. The two classic comedies prove that they truly stand the test of time, with the added organ accompaniment making the event an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience.
The Milwaukee Film Festival runs now through Thursday, October 8. For more information, please visit the Milwaukee Film webpage.