(WARNING: Spoilers abound!)
His New Profession is about as politically incorrect as Keystone comedies get, but if you’re in the mood for that sort of guilty pleasure, it’s a riot.
It begins with Charlie in the park, sitting innocently (for once) and reading the Police Gazette. A nearby young man wants to make time with his girlfriend but must push his incapacitated uncle around in a wheelchair. The young man asks Charlie to push him around for a while and offers to pay him for it later.
The uncle has a cast on one leg, and when you recall what happened with Charlie and a man with gout (Caught in the Rain), you immediately brace yourself. Sure enough, the cast-up leg gets smacked a few times, but the real eye-popper is yet to come.
Charlie passes a bar. Suddenly realizing he’s an alcoholic, Charlie asks the uncle for a handout, but the uncle won’t budge. Charlie keeps walking the uncle, who falls asleep in his chair. Charlie ends up rolling next to another man asleep in a wheelchair; the man has a tin cup and is wearing a sign reading, “Help a Cripple.” Charlie surreptitiously moves the cup and the sign over to the uncle’s chair. A sympathetic nurse walks by and deposits a coin in the cup. Once she leaves, Charlie grabs the coin and is off to the bar.
From there, it’s one Did-I-just-see-that moment after another. And when everyone gathers on a pier for the climax, you’re just waiting for someone to end up in the drink. No disappointment there, either.
Chaplin plays the title role, a prop man for a mish-mash of a vaudeville show. Some of the show’s characters are intriguing, if thinly developed – the divas with their temper tantrums, the height-challenged strong man – but they’re all just fodder for Charlie to kick them around, anyway. The guy who gets it the worst is Charlie’s fellow prop man, a senior citizen whom Charlie bats around because…well, because he’s old, I guess.
There are a few nice gags sprinkled throughout, as when Charlie flirts with the strong man’s wife and inadvertently ends up on stage with a few of the acts, but the comedy is hit-and-miss. And it isn’t helped by frequent cutaways to the audience’s front row, led by Mack Sennett at his most yahoo-ey.
Charlie finishes the stage act, and the film, by aiming a live water hose at everyone. It was almost inevitable.
Laughing Gas is Charlie Chaplin at his Keystone-sadistic worst, as an assistant in a dentist’s office. You can pretty much guess where it goes from there.
The most interesting thing about the movie’s plot is how it comes full circle – Charlie harasses people within and out of the office, yet by movie’s end, every one of his victims is there to give him full-throated revenge.
Otherwise, the movie is a waste of potential. People’s fear of dentists has a long range of history in movie comedy (from Laurel & Hardy to Steve Martin, at least), but this one starts out with Charlie eager to wallop anybody in sight, so it never builds to anything. The best scene is probably Charlie’s heavy-duty flirting of a female patient in the dentist’s chair
.You can view the movie at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7GPgYwuCHk