A timid man is the butt of practical jokes in a boarding house. He likes the proprietors' daughter Nancy, and she encourages him to stick up for himself, but he can't find the will or the strength. Then, he reads about a scientific breakthrough: a doctor has found a way to inject the personality of a bulldog into timid humans. He volunteers for a treatment, and soon he's storming toward the boarding house to put his tormentors in their place. Will he succeed or will something in the nature of things keep him living a dog's life? Written by
THE SHRIMP is more heavily plotted than the previous Langdon-Roach fare but that doesn't keep it from being a surprising change of pace as Langdon is called on to act as two version's of his 'Baby' character and make this a most satisfactory short in the series. The old adage of 'the worm turns' has been a comic staple since the time of the Greeks and Romans took turns beheading each other. That's nothing compared with watching meek, childlike Harry Langdon becoming a golf club-welding dictator. "You! Stop eating candy!"
Harry is the beleaguered renter in a boardinghouse filled with sadistic bullies who, for some reason, all enjoy tormenting Harry at every turn. As he is tripped, kicked and has his chair constantly pulled out from under him at the dinner table, Harry tries to be a good sport about it by laughing along with everyone else. We've seen this side of Harry before; the genial clown who wants to be so liked by the likes of a gruff Vernon Dent that he would skip sideways down the street with him just so he could watch every facial expression of his friend. But not even good-natured Harry would want to be friends with this group of wretched louses. What keeps him there is his girl, who's parents own the boardinghouse. She is always telling him to stand up for himself, but to no avail. It doesn't help that her dad is a lout who works his wife like a slave and joins in with the torturing of Harry. But the two main tormentors in the house are Jim (Jim Mason - who specialized at playing oily snakes. He tried to evict Our Gang's grandma in FLY MY KITE (31)) and his girlfriend (Thelma Todd - in one of her best mean-spirited performances.)
When all of this nastiness becomes almost too much to bear a convenient plot point is introduced that could had made Charley Chase proud. Harry is chosen as a guinea pig for a crazed scientist's (Max Davidson) experiment in personality changes that makes him more assertive and tough - all of which sounds antithetical to being Harry Langdon. He accomplishes this by losing his stammering speech habit and speaking in a lower, monotone cadence. But the rest is still all Harry and the effect is quite funny. When he takes after Thelma she is aghast that he dares speak to her in such a manner so to make his point he begins pushing her backwards into a chair. Whenever he is about to go too far and strike Thelma his girl admonishes him and he stops. It's still Harry 'the Baby' only he has been turned into a demented gentle giant. And so it goes throughout the house righting all wrongs with force. He is even rough with mother by demanding that she stop scrubbing floors by literally picking her up and throwing her into a chair telling her to relax. The climatic fight with Jim has Keaton overtones to it as Harry bites, claws, and wrestles the bully into submission. And being Harry, his final bit of retribution is to chase the house cat down the street for some earlier slight. A Langdon never forgets.
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