The Adventurer was Charlie Chaplin's last film in his contract for Lone Star/Mutual, and it is the fastest paced, with its opening and closing chases which are the apotheosis of the Keystone-style rally. It begins with a manhunt filmed on the coast near Santa Monica, California. (During the filming Chaplin rescued a seven-year-old girl from drowning after she had been swept into the waters from a rock as she watched). The police are after an escaped convict (Chaplin) who appears out of the sand beside a resting prison guard (Frank J. Coleman). Soon five guards are chasing Charlie over and through the hills and crags of the rough seacoast. The chase ends with Charlie taking to the ocean where he steals a swimsuit from a boater.
Meanwhile Edna Purviance and her suitor Eric Campbell are lunching at a seaside cafe and hear the cries of Edna's mother who has fallen off the pier into the ocean. Edna begs Eric to jump in and rescue her, but he refuses to risk his life and instead can only stand on the pier and cry for help. Edna bravely jumps in, but is no better a swimmer and is soon also yelling for rescue. As Eric yells from the pier, a swarthy seaman standing next to him yells along, and in the process breaks the railing, plunging them both in the drink. Charlie has meanwhile swum to shore but hearing the cries for help, he swims to the pier where mother, daughter and Eric are all treading water. The Little Fellow swims agilely between the three, deciding who to save first. He rescues Edna, who sends him down again for her mother and then for Eric, whom Charlie tows along to the pier by his beard. The ladies' chauffeur (played by Chaplin's own chauffeur, secretary and valet Toraichi Kono) aids in helping the ladies to their limousine, where Charlie explains that he heard their cries "from my yacht." When Eric is accidentally dumped back into the sea by Charlie, he foils Charlie's second rescue by kicking him off the ladder to the pier. At Edna's orders, Kono discovers the unconscious Charlie and carries him to the car.
Waking in a strange bed with bars on the headboard and dressed in someone else's striped pajamas, Charlie thinks he's back in prison until the butler enters with clothes for him. A party is under way in the household. The hero of the day introduces himself as Commodore Slick and meets Edna's father, Judge Brown, who eyes him suspiciously. Charlie is very interested in Edna, but also in all the free drinks. His rivalry with Eric soon escalates into covert kicking and seltzer squirting, until Eric finds Charlie's picture in a newspaper article about his escape. Before Eric can bring the article to Judge Brown's attention, Charlie cleverly draws Campbell's beard on the photo, allaying the judge's suspicions. Not to be denied, Campbell calls the authorities. Meanwhile Charlie samples the pleasures of the house, dancing with Edna and eating ice cream on a veranda. In a classic bit of pantomime, when Charlie accidentally drops his lump of ice cream down his pants front, we can trace the exact position of the freezing lump just by watching Chaplin's face. When the guards arrive, a marvellous chase sequence begins, upstairs and down, during which Charlie eludes capture. Jumping down from the balcony, one of the guards grabs Charlie who has paused to apologize to Edna for his deception. When the guard loosens his hold to shake hands with Edna, Charlie takes to his heels again as the picture ends.
This last of Chaplin's 12 short masterpieces marked the end of Chaplin's most intensively creative period. "Fulfilling the Mutual Contract, I suppose, was the happiest period of my career, he wrote. "I was light and unencumbered, 27-years old, with fabulous prospects and a friendly, glamorous world before me. Within a short time I would be a millionaire. It all seemed slightly mad." Eric Campbell, who holds a special place in the Chaplin lexicon, appeared in only 11 Chaplin films. He was tragically killed in an auto accident in December, 1917 at age 37. Chaplin tried and failed to replace Campbell. He instead changed his approach to the villain in his films, later to be supplanted by aspects of society at large. Chaplin's David was never the same without his true Goliath. ~ Phil Posner, Rovi