Max Linder

Seven Years Bad Luck (1921)

Seven Years Bad Luck 1921 Max Linder

After his raucous bachelor party, Max (Max Linder) comes home very drunk the next morning. He’s so drunk he doesn’t even recognize his own bedroom. The next morning, his butler accidentally breaks Max’s mirror while flirting with the maid and tries to pretend nothing happened, even going as far as to convince another house employee to dress up as Max and stand on the other side of the mirror and mimic him while he gets ready until the mirror can be replaced. It doesn’t take Max long to realize what’s going on and make him want to destroy the illusion. But then his fiance Betty (Alta Allen) calls and interrupts him and while he’s away, the mirror is replaced. So when he comes back to throw something through the mirror frame, he ends up breaking the mirror.

Max is a bit superstitious, so the thought of starting seven years of bad luck just before his wedding horrifies him. He does everything he can to avoid bad luck. When he goes to see Betty, her maid offers to read his palm for him while he waits for her and she tells him he’ll have bad luck with a dog. Since Betty has a dog, Max tries to get rid of it and Betty isn’t pleased and breaks things off with him. She changes her mind, but Max’s behavior once again bothers her and she ends it with him again. Desperate to save their relationship, Max gets his friend to talk to Betty on his behalf, but his friend has been in love with Betty and tells her that Max has run off one of his old girlfriends. Deeply hurt, she decides to marry Max’s friend out of spite.

When Max finds out what’s been going on, he decides to get away from it all with a train trip. But he gets robbed before he can get on the train and tries to sneak on.  His presence doesn’t go unnoticed by the train conductor and Max has to spend the trip trying to evade the train employees. Eventually he’s arrested and has to see a judge, but it just so happens Betty and Max’s friend are there to see the same judge to get married. But is Max’s streak of bad luck over?

Out of all the silent film comedians, I’ve long felt like Max Linder has been overdue for rediscovery by classic film fans. He was a tremendous influence on so many of the great classic comedians like Chaplin, Keaton, and the Marx Brothers and Seven Years Bad Luck is an excellent example of how brilliant he was. The whole scene with Max’s employee trying to be the mirror image of Max was clearly an inspiration for Groucho and Harpo’s famous mirror scene in Duck Soup. Even though it’s a slapstick comedy, Linder does a fantastic job of handling everything with style and grace. Seven Years Bad Luck is not the broad, over the top style of slapstick that something like Tillie’s Punctured Romance is. It’s a very fun and clever little comedy that I’ll admit kind of starts to drag a little bit near the end, but is still highly enjoyable.

DVD Review: The Max Linder Collection

KINO-DVD-Master5If any silent film star is due for a revival of interest in their work, it’s Max Linder. In 1905, Linder started making films in France for Pathé Films and gained popularity playing his character “Max,” a very dapper type always dressed to the nines with his signature silk top hat. By 1910, Max Linder had become the world’s first international movie star and it wasn’t long before he was commanding a salary of a million Francs a year.

Max Linder’s films influenced many of the most celebrated comedians in film history — Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, The Marx Brothers. Some of Linder’s other famous fans included King Vidor, Mack Sennett, and Adolphe Menjou. Like Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd, Linder was more than just an actor and also wrote and directed many of his own films. However, after Linder moved from France to the United States in 1916, he struggled to win over American audiences. He returned to France in 1922 and died three years later. Despite being such an influential figure, Max Linder hasn’t gotten nearly as much recognition as he deserves.

If you’re interested in exploring some of Max Linder’s work for yourself, Kino Classics has just released The Max Linder Collection, a DVD featuring four films he made during his time in America. The set includes 1922’s The Three Must-Get-Theres, a delightful parody of Douglas Fairbanks in The Three Musketeers; 1921’s Be My Wife; 1921’s Seven Years Bad Luck; and 1917’s Max Wants a Divorce.  The Max Linder Collection is only available on standard DVD, not blu-ray, and doesn’t include any bonus features, but the movies alone are enough to make it worth buying.

All four films in The Max Linder Collection have been lovingly restored and look fantastic. The source material for Max Wants a Divorce isn’t as clear as the source material for the others, but it still looks pretty good for a movie made nearly a century ago. Of the four movies, the only one I had seen before was Seven Years Bad Luck, which I really liked. The other three movies were a revelation for me. They showed Max to be a gifted, wonderfully imaginative comedian who was way ahead of the game. Why these movies weren’t big hits with American audiences at the time is beyond me because I found all of them to be quite delightful. The Max Linder Collection is a great way to be introduced to one of silent film’s most overlooked pioneers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from Kino Lorber.