Harold Lloyd's Haunted Spooks (1920) is a two-reel comedy, a form Lloyd had graduated into the previous year at Pathe Studios after making a series of one-reelers in which he had developed his character of the mild-mannered college boy with straw hat and glasses who could rise to heights of athletic physical comedy.
The action in Haunted Spooks is sparked by Harold's romantic problems. The opening sequence has him disappointed in love and trying, with notable lack of success, to commit suicide. Eventually he marries a pretty girl (Mildred Davis, who would marry Lloyd in real life three years later and remain his wife until his death in 1969). The couple moves into a mansion that is spooked by a wicked uncle who wants to scare the young people away so he can have the place to himself. Despite some dated racial humor, the short remains a delightful example of Lloyd's comedy skills.
Midway through the movie's making, Lloyd was posing for a publicity photo when what he thought was a harmless prop -- but was actually a live bomb -- went off in his hand. He had held the bomb close to his face, pretending to light his cigarette with its fuse, and luckily lowered it just before it exploded. His injuries included the loss of his right thumb and forefinger, facial burns and temporary blindness. While shooting on the film stopped, he was hospitalized for six months.
Thereafter Lloyd was handicapped by the missing digits and the stiffness that remained in his hand, but hid the problem with a glove-like prosthetic device moulded from a reverse casting of his left hand. His comedy feats in his later "thrill comedies" (including his climbs up and down skyscrapers) are all the more amazing when one realizes they were accomplished with this handicap.
Producer: Hal Roach
Director: Alfred J. Goulding, Hal Roach
Screenplay: H.M. Walker (titles)
Cinematography: Walter Lundin
Original Music: Robert Israel
Cast: Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl), Wallace Howe (The Uncle), Ernest Morrison (Little Boy), Blue Washington (Butler).
by Roger Fristoe