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Turned down when they try to enlist, the boys do the next best thing and become air raid wardens. They uncover and foil a Nazi plot to sabotage a magnesium plant. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
Several cast members in studio records/casting call lists for this movie were not seen in the final print. These were (with their character names): [error] (Boy), Jack Gardner (Johnson), Milton Kibbee (Lem) and Rose Hobart (Norton's Secretary). See more »
[inside the open car trunk]
This is a job for the detectives.
Maybe we should turn 'em over to the FHA.
[they get out of the car trunk.]
This must be the hide-in.
Hide-out! Come on.
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Another unhappy post-1940's wartime comedy featuring arguably cinema's greatest laughter makers,Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy,although you'd hardly get that particular impression after watching AIR RAID WARDENS.After two unfortunate features at 20th CENTURY FOX,the boys went over to MGM,who distributed virtually all their Hal Roach efforts.They also made occasional guest appearances in all-star extravaganzas there(such as Hollywood REVUE OF 1929 and Hollywood PARTY).It seemed a rather better option as several members of the technical crew(Jack Jevne,Edward Sedgwick,Charles Rogers)had worked with the team before at Roach;Rogers especially was a reliable writer-director-actor and a trusted colleague of Stan Laurel.Most promising of all was the presence of Edgar Kennedy in the cast;it was his first role opposite the boys since NIGHT OWLS,released 13 years earlier.
So why is AIR RAID WARDENS little or no better than their other efforts at Fox? One reason is an overtly serious plot about Nazi saboteurs which,typical of wartime Hollywood,dissolves into much propaganda and takes up far too much running time,and mitigates against many opportunities for L & H humour.To be fair,there are scenes which promise to be typically funny in the L & H mould,but are affected by sub-standard direction and cutting.One of Stan's great strengths behind the camera was his immense contributions in supervising the direction and editing;it's plainly obvious big studio interference,as excessive here as it was at Fox,prevents most of these scenes from being nothing more than very mildly funny.Their two encounters with old foe Edgar Kennedy are a disappointment,particularly the second tit-for-tat battle which should have been far funnier,but is sabotaged by misjudged direction and pacing.Other misjudgements are poorly-handled sequences involving poster-hanging,Stan being forced by Ollie to sign his full name after already scrawling his usual 'X',the Nazi agent forcing Stan to shoot Ollie,and a morbidly out of character speech by Stan saying 'We're not as good as other people' after being sacked after their said confrontation with Kennedy,claiming they were drunk;his and Ollie's self-pitying attitudes are depressingly the total opposite of the eternal,naive optimists gloriously portrayed in the Roach films.Kennedy's role itself is all too brief;a larger concentration on him instead of the mostly bland supporting actors and grim storyline would have been a far better idea.The few brief points in the film's favour are a good production,fairly funny scenes involving a dog disrupting a meeting and a mock first aid encounter with pompous bank manager Norton,played by Howard Freeman,who in fact probably gives the most assured supporting performance in the film.Even so,these are still pretty hackneyed and mechanical comic incidents in which much lesser comedians than Laurel and Hardy could have done.Authentic L & H traits only last but a few seconds,the best of which are some familiar Hardy camera looks,which are in fact the only real amusing bits in the film.At Roach,these bits would have been considered mere punctuation during masterly comic sequences in such films as WAY OUT WEST,SONS OF THE DESERT and others;in AIR RAID WARDENS,they are the best bits of uninspired and banal material surrounding it.Inoffensive,but nowhere near the quality of even their average Roach films.
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