Two explorers travel to Africa to capture and photograph various wildlife.

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Cast

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Katherine Grant ...
Mrs. Laurello
James Finlayson ...
Lt. Hans Downe (Little Boss)
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Storyline

Two African Explorers, Stanislaus Laurello and Hans Downe, travel round Africa, from Los Angeles to Hollywood, trying to capture and photograph animals, but have more encounters than they had hoped for. Some animals encountered are bears, emu's, an elephant and a family of lions. Written by Paul L

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Comedy | Short

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Release Date:

30 September 1923 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'Afrique nous barbe  »

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1.33 : 1
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Featured in Mad Movies: Episode #1.9 (1965) See more »

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the decade of animals and parody
2 August 2016 | by (France) – See all my reviews

The interest in exploration, hunting and everything that concerned travel was intense throughout the early years of cinema and, although educational standards in the US were probably no higher than they are now, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that people in the 1920s were more ignorant about wild animals (this film is not after all intended as a zoological lecture).

The popularity of hunting/travel films increase during the twenties as a result of the boom in home-projection that followed Pathé development of the Pathé-Kok and then the Pathé-Baby (known in the US as Pathéscope), since such films were regarded as having educational value, a market that Pathé targeted for its home-projection system. The first full-length travel documentaries also appeared during the decade.

As something of a side-effect, animals became almost ubiquitous in comedy films and fictional films as well. The Thanhouser company built up its own zoo (to go with the Thanhouser Kid, the Thanhouser Kidlet and the Thanhouser Dog). Alice Guy, who ran Solax, describes in her autobiography how the studios there came to resemble a menagerie.

This was also the period when film=parodies begin to become common and some extremely good ones were made in the decade - L'Étroit Mousquetaire/The Three Must-Get-There's (1922), The Three Ages (1923), Au Secours (1924), The Frozen North (1924) or Two Wagons: Both Covered (1924), Go West (1925), Stan Laurel produced several parodies in the decade but and he could manage somewhat better than this; the best of them, Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride, a parody of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, would appear in 1925. But he was not particularly good at it and most of his efforts in this direction are fairly lamentable, not "by modern standards" - some of the unfunniest films ever made have appeared under 'The National Lampoon" banner in the last three decades - but by the standards of the good parodies being produced at the time.

Parodies are difficult to do well and require a rather special quality that few actor/writer/directors had and it is no coincidence that the parodies cited above are all by real experts - Max Linder, Buster Keaton and the multi-talented Will Rogers. Stan Laurel's real talents, as we know, lay elsewhere.

To be fair to Laurel, it is particularly difficult to produce a good parody of a film of hunting or exploration (I cannot think of an example), perhaps because such films so often come close to parodying themselves. The one thing that this film does catch rather well (in its intertitles) is the rather twee personalised "diary-style" commentaries

  • often self-congratulary - that such documentaries had already begun


to affect (see for instance Cooper and Schoedsack's Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life which came out in 1925 but which is nevertheless a very fine documentary). This parody is too early to be based on that film or on the same directors' later Chang: a Drama of the Wilderness (1927, an account of a hunting-binge in Thailand with a plot not dissimilar to the later fictional film Elephant Boy. This far inferior film is clearly very largely a fake-up à la Flaherty and seems likely that Martin and Osa Johnson's earlier Jungle Adventures (1921), lost?, had been much in the same line and is quite a likely source for this parody.


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