More4 is exploring the history of film this weekend, paying particular attention to comics of the 1920s like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. These chaps really earned their place in cinema history, dicing with death in order to get a few laughs from an audience in a way that’s unthinkable in these health and safety-conscious times. I thought it might be fun to take an open-mouthed look back at some of the more hair-raising set pieces these early clowns staged for the screen…
1. The lion king
That look of terror isn’t acting, you know – Chaplin was alongside a real lion for this scene from The Circus…
2. Buster Keaton’s house collapses
…right around his ears in Steamboat Bill, Jr. Imagine the guts it must have taken to stand there with half a ton of scenery falling down around him…
3. Harold Lloyd: human fly
Watch in horror as madman Harold Lloyd clings to the side of a skyscraper in this clip from his 1923 film, Safety Last.
4. Steamboat Buster
Keaton turns himself into a human hamster on the side of a steamboat, after some more death-defying leaps, jumps and climbs in 1922’s Daydreams.
5. Tram trauma
Harold Lloyd demonstrates both how nimble and insane he is in this clip from Girl Shy, which also features the most reckless driving of an electric trolley to appear on film.
6. Chaplin risks his choppers
The Little Tramp evidently had faith in his prop-maker as he allows himself to be pummelled and abused by some hideous machinery in Modern Times.
Have you got a favourite silent comedy moment? Would you like to see these sorts of stunts revived in modern movies? Leave a comment and let me know…