Silent Sunday: The Merry Jail (1917)

From now on I’m trying to reserve my designated Silent Sunday posts for rewatches, so that I can use the other six days of the week to go through any unseen ones I may have (and currently that’s about 30 titles). Still, since we’ve been in Lubitschland for the last couple of posts, it seemed fair to go with this work of his for today; not part of the box set but a special feature on Criterion’s Trouble in Paradise (which I must also revisit). Here Lubitsch and screenwriter Hanns Kraly borrow the plot of Die Fledermaus and compress a three-act operetta into a three-reel silent not-quite-feature; Alex von Reizenstein finds himself in the slightly complicated position of facing a short stay in jail for behaving scandalously in public, as well as having to attend a grand ball being put on by a prince. Needless to say he much prefers the latter invitation, which he accepts while his wife Alice inadvertently finds someone to take his place in jail overnight before setting out to see just how scandalous her husband gets when he thinks she’s not looking. Fairly fluffy stuff (and, again, there’s the amusing idea that getting plastered only helps to unlock one’s repressed inner poof—cf. Emil Jannings as the pisshead jailer Quabbe), but consider the source material, it’s not exactly Jacobean tragedy, is it. Perfectly likeable, and the three-reel format seems to suit it well enough; after seeing the last couple of films, though, I did kind of miss Ossi Oswalda (IMDB incorrectly credits both her and Kitty Dewall with playing Alice); Agda Nielson is fine as the maid (who also goes to the party), but I couldn’t help but feel Ossi would’ve filled that part even better.


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