Triple Trouble (1918)
After Police, Chaplin worked on his first full-length feature Life. Essanay Studios decided that his film was taking too long, and that he needed to keep on his schedule of a two-reel every other week. Chaplin disagreed, and so left the studio, going to Mutual Studios, where he could run his own division Lone Star Pictures.
Meanwhile Essanay still had many reels of outtakes, as well as the unfinished picture Life. So a year later they requested Leo White to compile a film from the old footage, which is Triple Trouble. Chaplin sued Essanay, but the court ruled that the footage belonged to the studio, so they could do as they pleased with it. In Chaplin’s autobiography, he listed Triple Trouble as one of his official films.
And rightly so. Although it holds together as a single story poorly, and the end is just tacked on, it contains some of the best material Chaplin did at Essanay, especially the chaos at the flop house, and the choreography of the “free for all” at the flop house is one of the best scenes Chaplin’s ever done.
Charlie is hired as a janitor at the Nutt House, where Professor Nutt is working on his wireless explosive, which the politician Hun wants to get his hands on (remember, this was filmed in 1916/17 when World War I was still going strong). The focus, though, is on the Tramp who makes more of a mess than cleans up. After his work is done, the Tramp goes to a flop house where there is a drunk shouting in the middle of the night, and a thief picking people’s pockets. That same night, we follow the Tramp back to the Nutt house, where there is criminal activity and a well organized, if clueless, police force.
I laughed more at this one picture than possibly the whole set of films at Essanay. Although the Tramp is a better film, this has some of the most entertaining stunts. How I wish Life had been finished, because I think it might have been the best of Chaplin’s work in this time period.
4.5/5 with .5 taken off because there wasn’t enough material to make it coherent = 4/5