The story unfolds similarly to many other shorts, with Oswald traveling the countryside and having thoughts of love on his mind. He comes upon a castle surrounded by a moat, where his girl, Sadie (see the comments for why that’s her name) is in the top tower. Oswald tries to woo her from below, picking up a floating accordion to serenade her, but it ends up squirting water all over him, in a laugh out loud gag.
He manages to get up to the tower and plant a big, hot kiss on Sadie, which wins her over. It’s too late, though, as Pete shows up behind her, ready to clobber Oswald.
After a fun gag where Oswald falls off the tower and uses the entire screen as a “pool” to swim around to the top again, they clash inside. This is the funniest sequence of the shorts. Oswald doesn’t fight continuously, but manages to temporarily incapacitate Pete, run over to kiss Sadie, and then repeats the cycle. One memorable instance involves him allowing his shadow to swordfight while he runs over to Sadie. He pulls this trick 4 or 5 times, and each time it gets funnier. It is a classic comedic situation with great timing and inventive animation.
Oswald manages to use his wits to knock over Pete and his knight minions like bowling pins. He and Sadie open the door to get outside, and a lion jumps out, chasing them out the window. In another clever bit, Sadie’s dress inflates, and Oswald hops on top, as they kiss away the short. It’s clever because rather than falling straight down, they flow from side to side, up and down, and the animation reflects it. Very good work by the animators here.
I loved this short. It is stuff like this that almost makes me wonder if
Mickey was the beneficiary of sound more than quality. I’ve seen
Steamboat Willie many times, and it’s good, but it’s not as good as
Oh What A Knight. Not even close. I’ve read that theory before, but I wasn’t sure if I believed it. This is the first time I’ve thought that maybe there is something to that notion.
(Of course, I have to add that as a kid, I ate up those musical sequences like jellybeans... and it's quite clear audiences in the early talkie era felt the same way.)
I have to agree that the Mickeys that I have seen seem to use the musical number much the same way that the Alices used the chase sequence. It's the go-to gag sequence of all the early films.
Maybe it's improvements in personality animation and timing, buts something about this short makes the gags work better than before. Some of the funniest scenes for me include the 'impossible' gags like Oswald ringing himself out after getting soaked or accidentally stretching Sadie's arm to ridiculous lengths.
One thing I've noticed since watching more silent cartoons is that they often use very similar gags to much later Tex Avery cartoons of the 40s. However, Avery's use of immensely skewed logic is much funnier. In this cartoon I was laughing at the insanely impossible gags, much as I would at an Avery one (as has happened elsewhere in the Oswald series, but rarely in the Alice's).
It's the reactions and expressions of the characters that make laugh in this one too. After Oswald's pants fall down
in front of the girl he blushes, but he then turns to the audience and blushes again as if to say "OMG! I can't believe she just saw that"! Priceless! Later when Oswald is nearly killed by Pete (and has to remove his head to get out the way) he looks at the audience as if to say "Man, that was close". It's not just the breaking of the fourth wall here that's funny, it's the connection of the hero's reactions to audience.
There's some other great expressions in this one that made me laugh too. Especially some of the shocked looks on Oswald's and Sadie's face near the end. Disney is starting to create
humor from implausible situations combined with personalities and it really works (maybe more so than in much later cartoons when the implausible situations wouldn't be quite so ridiculous).