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The Chases of Pimple Street (1934)
Amusing mid-thirties Chase short
In "The Chases of Pimple Street" - its title a spoof of the 1934 drama "The Barretts Of Wimpole Street" - is a funny little two-reeler from a period when Charley frequently churned out shorts that cannot be compared to his best silent work but which were still constantly amusing. In this one, Charley happily volunteers his bragging sister-in-law, Celeste, to his boss who urgently needs a girl to entertain an out-of-town client. Alas, his sister-in-law is not on time for the meeting and so Charley has to present his wife as the girl for his boss' client while Celeste, who arrives later, is introduced as his wife. Later, the whole company visits a dance hall and complications arouse which ultimately lead to Charley losing his job.
With its clever mixture of sight gags and situational comedy, "TCOPS" is a thoroughly enjoyable Chase sound short, one of his best from that particular period. Nice to see Arthur Housman sober for a few minutes.
Hog Wild (1930)
A Hell Of A Brilliant Comedy Short
"Hog Wild" is not only one of Laurel & Hardy's best films, it's simply one of the greatest shorts ever made. Give the boys a simple situation, let 'em milk twenty minutes worth of inspired gags out of it and you have a damn near perfect comedy.
In this 1930s short, Laurel & Hardy are planning to put up an aerial, ("Mrs Hardy wants to get Japan!"). That is all there is to say about the story; what we get is Laurel & Hardy playing with tools, Ollie being pestered by his wife and a hilarious slapstick finale which manages to remain completely in character. With about 18 minutes of pantomime and 2 minutes of dialogue, "Hog Wild" represents Laurel & Hardy at their absolute best. And we know how good that is!
Air Raid Wardens (1943)
Pretty bad - but still one of the better post-Roach films
In 1940, L&H quit Hal Roach after twelve years of partnership that yielded some of the finest comedies ever made. Their departure for 20th Century Fox was meant to be a step towards more creative control and freedom in the process of making films; alas, the opposite was the case. Their first two films under the new production company showed that L&H should, by Fox's definition, appear in front of the cameras and leave cutting, directing etc. to the professionals. Consequently, these two films were pale shadows of their great Roach-produced companions. Desperately, L&H sought a newer rainbow at MGM but were to be disappointed again. Even the best scenes in this film, "Air Raid Wardens", like two tit-for-tat sequences with their old colleague Edgar "Slowburn" Kennedy, lacked the spontaneous and improvised look of similar scenes´in, say, "Bacon Grabbers". Likewise, other slapstick moments in ARW like a poster-hanging bit have a rather mechanical look and are destroyed by poor editing. Yes, Stan's creative genius was sadly missing behind the camera.
Furthermore, the whole patriotic atmosphere of the plot doesn't fit L&H's style one bit.
And still this excuse for a comedy, although far, far from features like "Way Out West" or "Sons Of The Desert", emerges as one of the better post-Roach films after all; firstly, in contrast to most of the other later films, the romantic subplot is pretty much in the background and Stan & Ollie remain the main attraction. Secondly, there are at least a few scenes which REMIND you of L&H's better days; there are no such scenes to be found in "A-Haunting We Will Go" or "Nothing But Trouble", for example.
So "Air Raid Wardens" is hardly a pain to sit through but is so vastly inferior to their Roach films that you regret once more that they left him for good in 1940.
Feet First (1930)
Great - until the end
By 1930, silent pictures were definitely a thing of the past. Harold Lloyd, one of the ultimate masters of silent comedy, was forced to adapt his style to sound. This was not as easy as one would think - "Welcome Danger", his first all-talking picture, displayed very little of his usual sight-gag style, instead relying on verbal quips and one-liners and, consequently, being vastly inferior to his silent masterpieces. Fortunately, Lloyd realized this and "Feet First", his second sound film, is again on par with his greatest silents - for the most part. Although totally lacking of something like a story, "Feet First" keeps the one-liner rate at an absolute minimum, instead abounding with sight-gags.
So how come that this movie is never counted among Lloyd's masterpieces? Some people consider it a total rip-off of his silents; it generally is not, it just follows the same pattern. The only letdown is the last reel; the house-climbing episode desperately tries to copy and improve Lloyd's earlier dare-devil climbing scenes but it fails to deliver, partly because of the poor editing and pacing (compared to "Safety Last"), partly because of the stereotype racist portrayal of the janitor, played by Willie "Sleep'n'Eat" Best.
Apart from that last reel, however, "Feet First" ranks among Lloyd's funniest, if not his best pictures (it simply lacks a bit of the beauty of "The Kid Brother" or the pace of "Safety Last" to rival with those two) and certainly among his prime talkies.