Many of these little humorous episodes are of necessity set in a blank netherworld--in which nothing but the prank exists, often motiveless (beyond itself), with little or no provocation and minimal or cursory repercussions; and so the cinema, perhaps even especially here, in this eminently disposable sub-genre, begins to assume authority as its own art, with its own rules. And while they may be freely swiped from the comic sketch (whether by "Boz" or Josh Billings) and the newspaper cartoon (from Nast's political and Yuletide offerings to The Yellow Kid and Jimmy Swinnerton's bears and tigers), the cinematic prank not only depends on motion--as any stage gag would--but moves freely from the restrictions of the stage, to the suburban garden--let us never forget, a mere seven years ago (but already fading, in cinema's sudden surge over the past year or so to shake off its lethargy--a number of Edison's increasingly derivative offerings notwithstanding), the Lumières' The Sprinkler Sprinkled--and even more distant haunts, such as the swimming pond of Interrupted Bathers. These contrived mischiefs seem somehow at once more realistic and fantastic in Nature, the real breeze fluttering actual trees, while ersatz high jinks--yes, often producing equally ersatz amusement--march dutifully mid-frame.
Something more, though, occurs with this example of the genre: The female bathers' clothes are stolen not by their peers--youthful chums, so often, intent on disrobing their female counterparts in smirking innocence--but a pair of hoboes. Their intent, then, must be more than to playfully denude the bathers; they obviously mean to sell the clothing. Again, the brevity and overt intents of the piece--in particular, the closing moment, as the women don the inevitable barrels--by the way, for me the most comical element is their perplexing availability; how does one come across a pair of barrels so handily, out there amid the oaks and ferns?--all of this denies any "social" element to the sketch. But my mind will not resist, and wonders if more could be made of this character type. The hobo or tramp, a staple in vaudeville (and of course for untold centuries before, the low character--also often the trickster, ragged but clever, a sneak-thief with enough wit to hatch a scheme and see it through), in our modern age might become more than a mere catalyst for slight fables with nonexistent morals. What, I am not certain; but I hope more than animated props.