Although he had been starring in short comedies for eight years when he made this movie, Stan Laurel had done little to make it apparent he was one of the great talents of film comedy. Some of his movies of this period are watchable only by the most dedicated of completest. Yet, in this movie, we see he had finally found his own secret to making a funny film comedy: slowing it down. Not for him the frenetic pace of the Keystone imitators, but a slower speed that let him elaborate his gags and let the audience in on the joke: we start laughing as the awful inevitability of the gag becomes apparent and still are surprised at the inventive variations on a theme.
This pace is apparent in the very first shot: we see Stan, as a deerstalker-wearing detective, stewing over something at his desk. Eventually, it becomes clear that it is a blacksmith puzzle. A small boy comes in, does the puzzle, reassembles it and hands it back to Stan, who is still confounded by it. No pratfall, no sped-up motion, but a gag that fits the story, the character and Mr. Laurel.
The pace continues, speeding up gradually as he is hired by future Roach Studios regular, Anita Garvin, to spy on her husband. I shan't list the gags, but they are good and this movie is an excellent harbinger of things to come.
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