Musty Suffer Returns After A Century in the Vault
by Joe Corey on April 7, 2014

Musty Suffer is finally back. After nearly a century lost to time, the tramp that wasn’t Charlie Chaplin is returning to the screen thanks to the passion of film enthusiasts. Ben Model was part of the team that put together the recent Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams collections. Now he’s able to shine a light on a film series that is obscure to all, but the most devoted film fanatic. The Mishaps of Musty Suffer brings the trampy figure back to the viewing public. Here’s the press release:

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UNAVAILABLE TO GENERAL PUBLIC FOR 97 YEARS, THE POPULAR SILENT COMEDY FILM SERIES “THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER” COMES TO DVD

Renowned Silent Film Accompanist/Historian Ben Model Collaborates with Library of Congress to bring outrageous 1916-17 films featuring Ringling/Ziegfeld star to home video

NEW YORK, N.Y. (TUESDAY April 1, 2014) – Undercrank Productions and noted silent film accompanist/historian Ben Model announced today the DVD release of “The Mishaps of Musty Suffer”, an unjustly overlooked and forgotten series of slapstick comedies produced 1916-17. The release of the disc will be the first the general public has seen of these silent shorts since their initial release. The DVD features new digital transfers of the films, which were preserved by the Library of Congress, with new musical scores by Model. The DVD will be released on April 22 and will be available exclusively through Amazon.com.

Produced by George Kleine in studios in the Bronx, “The Mishaps of Musty Suffer” series is a cartoony and surreal series of comedy shorts chronicling the misadventures of put-upon tramp “Musty Suffer”, who lives a slapstick version of the Story of Job. Its star is the equally forgotten Harry Watson, Jr., a very popular stage clown and who had graduated from vaudeville and Ringling Brothers’ Circus to become headliner of the early Ziegfeld Follies. Wildly popular during its release, the series has been oddly overlooked and neglected ever since its initial release. Fortunately the Library of Congress preserved the 24 surviving films from the Musty Suffer series.

“I’d never seen anything like these films before,” says Historian and Silent Film Composer Ben Model, “and believe me…I’ve seen a ton of silent comedy shorts. They’re so different from what Chaplin and Keystone were putting out at the time, the oddball combination of vaudeville and unintended Dada in the gags and stories is both hilarious and bizarre. Plus, they unwittingly recorded bits of circus routines in some of these. It’s the cartoon-like scenarios of the Musty Suffer films that make them so accessible and funny.”

Model funded the DVD by returning to Kickstarter, where he’d successfully funded his 2013 Accidentally Preserved vol 1 & 2. He then arranged for new HD digital transfers of the archival master prints held the Library of Congress, and composed and recorded new musical scores for the films. The DVD contains 8 of the funniest from the series, as well as extras and an image gallery. Model is publishing a companion guide booklet to the DVD, written by film historian Steve Massa, which is sold separately and fits inside the DVD case.

The Mishaps of Musty Suffer DVD sells for $19.95, and the 55-page DVD companion booklet for $5.95; both will be available April 22, 2014 at Amazon.com. 117 mins, B&W, produced and scored by Ben Model. www.mustysuffer.com.

ABOUT BEN MODEL

Ben Model is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and has been a resident film pianist at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) since 1984. He accompanies silent films on piano and theatre organ regularly at MoMA, the Library of Congress, the Silent Clowns Film Series (in NYC), and at many theatres and schools around the country. His recorded scores can be heard on numerous releases from Kino Lorber and on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). He is also co-curator of MoMA’s annual “Cruel and Unusual Comedy” silent film series, and this month will be accompanying films at MoMA’s “Aesthetics of Shadow” series. Model is also the archivist for the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams collection and has programmed two “Ernie Kovacs Collection” DVD box sets for Shout Factory as well as MVD’s “Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Shows“. He is based in New York City. His website is www.silentfilmmusic.com.

THE FILMS of THE MISHAPS OF MUSTY SUFFER

GOING UP (1916) - 12 mins – itinerant tramp stumbles upon old pal Dippy Mary, who allows him to spend the night at the home she is caring for, but a beer bath and a serenade by a German band make for a difficult night.

THE LIGHTNING BELLHOP (1916) - 13 mins – Musty gets a job in a hotel where his duties as bellhop include being the elevator’s counterweight and the hotel’s maintenance man.

JUST IMAGINATION (1916) – 14 mins – when the Fairy Tramp appears before Musty, he wishes for a job, but is instead treated to a series of mental experiments in one of the most surreal films in the series.

BLOW YOUR HORN (1916) - 12 mins – this “whirl” finds Musty working as a bike messenger in the wilds of either the Bronx or Fort Lee, where he delivers building supplies and lingerie items. In the final third of the film Watson recreates a routine with two mannequins that was original a circus “walkabout” gag.

WHILE YOU WAIT (1916) – 14 mins – still looking for work, Musty tries an employment office and winds up with three different jobs…all at the same time for the same employer.

LOCAL SHOWERS (1916) - 12 mins – Musty must brave a dentist’s office to have an infected tooth pulled in a bizarre film that anticipates the mania of Bob Clampett’s WB cartoons.

OUTS AND INS (1916) – 12 mins – Musty works at a large indoor arcade, the set-piece of which involves his culinary and strangely sadistic work on the kitchen side of an automat.

SPLICED AND ICED (1917) - 12 mins – Musty tries to finally settle down at long last, and prepared to marry the woman of his dreams, but life with wifey and her father turn out to be a nightmare after the wedding.

EXTRAS:

CAPTURING CHICAGO (1916) - 10 mins – producer George Kleine made sure to have newsreel footage taken of Watson/Musty being feted during a motion picture exposition in Chicago in July 1916, and released it as this promo film.

HOLD FAST (excerpt) (1916) - 6 mins – the second half of this Musty “whirl” is basically a reenactment of Bickel & Watson’s famous boxing routine from the Follies. (Look for ensemble player Snitz Edwards in the background!)

IMAGE GALLERY – rare photographs, production stills, clippings and trade ads



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