Public Domain Theater: The Pilgrim (& “Target: Snafu”)

Welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

This month, we have for you one of the first feature films (well, sorta; it’s about forty minutes long) from that master of silent era slapstick, Charlie Chaplin! It’s The Pilgrim, a 1923 picture where Chaplin plays an escaped convict who disguises himself as a small town preacher. As you might expect, hilarity ensues.

Adding to the hilarity, we have a Warner Brothers cartoon from their Private Snafu line, a series of cartoons commissioned by the U.S. government during WWII to instruct new soldiers on basic matters. This picture, “Target: Snafu”, is a warning about the dangers of malaria and the mosquitoes who spread it. And if that doesn’t sound at all funny to you, think again!

This is a gloriously subversive wartime picture, mimicking all the rah-rah-go-get-’em tropes of hard working soldiers preparing to go fight the enemy, except the “soldiers” are mosquitoes, and the “enemy” is the hapless Private Snafu that they want to infect with malaria. I’m not sure how much any soldier learned from this short, but I’m sure plenty got a laugh out of it.

So why not pull up your mosquito netting, ditch that black-and-white striped jumpsuit for a parson’s garb, and come enjoy these wonderful little gems from the public domain?

Opening Cartoon:

Feature Presentation: