Chaplin opens His Prehistoric Past setting it up as a dream sequence, which lets the viewer know the outcome can’t be too dramatic. But the setup is immediate–Chaplin falls asleep on a park bench–so the more relatable elements in the dream don’t have much substance.
In the dream (the majority of Past), Chaplin is a macho man, who beats up all cavemen and wows all the cavewomen. But there’s no establishing the character as wanting to beat all the men and wow all the women… though I suppose the latter is implied.
The short drags quite a bit after the initial fight scene, as Chaplin pals around with the king (Mack Swain) and make goo goo eyes at the king’s favorite concubine (Gene Marsh). Marsh’s performance suggests Past has subtle depth–at times she’s frightened of Chaplin’s affections.
The production values are strong, but otherwise, it’s mostly undistinguished.
Written, edited and directed by Charles Chaplin; director of photography, Frank D. Williams; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Mutual Film.
Starring Charles Chaplin (Weakchin), Mack Swain (King Lowbrow), Gene Marsh (Sum-Babee), Fritz Schade (Ku-Ku), Cecile Arnold (Cavewoman) and Al St. John (Caveman).