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An OUR GANG Comedy Short.
In order to earn money for their baseball equipment, Alfalfa & the Rascals plan to have all their teeth extracted and then left under their pillow for the Good Fairy to turn into dimes. However, the kindly dentist the kids visit has a few plans of his own & soon the Boys will have to face THE AWFUL TOOTH
A funny little film. Highlight: Alfalfa in the dentist's chair.
Wow, are the kids stupid in this very late Our Gang comedy. When they
hear that Buckwheat got a dime for losing a tooth, they decide that
they can make a fortune if they can convince the dentist to yank out
ALL their teeth!! That way they can all buy new baseball gloves!
However, the dentist (Jack Norton) is a bit of a sadist and decides to
teach them a lesson--by scaring the pants off them!! He grabs Alfalfa
and pretends he's going to yank them--and, according to him, it "might
take hours!". It's a wonder if any of them will ever see a dentist
again after this one!! Fortunately, he turns out to be a pretty good
guy in the end. It's all VERY dark...but also funny in a cruel sort of
way. I am sure it alienated some of the fans, but I thought this was a
nice departure for the series.
Like the last few Our Gang shorts by Hal Roach Studios, Spanky is not in this film. Apparently he'd been loaned out to RKO for a full-length film and would return once the series was sold to MGM and retitled 'The Little Rascals'.
Hal Roach was quickly winding down Our Gang production by mid-1938. He instituted a cost cutting measure 2 years earlier by dropping the series back to one reel (roughly 10 minutes) after the final 2-reeler, Arbor Day was completed. The Awful Tooth ranks as one of the worst of the Roach-produced entries, primarily because it suffers from exactly what would become habitual once the series moved over to MGM: it ain't funny! Aside from the title word play on Leo McCarey's 1937 screwball comedy what you've got here is Alfalfa getting the crap scared out of him by a sadistic dentist (played by erstwhile movie drunk, Jack Norton)... not exactly the kind of thing audiences might see as funny, and it isn't. Okay, the series was already 16 years old at this point, and with 167 entries (not counting the feature flop, General Spanky in 1936) there's bound to be some duds in the bunch. This is definitely one of them. With the completion of the following entry, Hide and Shriek, Roach would end all short subject production--- the product his unique independent studio was built on.
I'll say this for the dentist: He doesn't get as carried away by his sadism
as other adults who revel in frightening the Rascals under the guise of
moral instruction (see BEAR FACTS, for example). He also doesn't mislead
them much - extracting teeth is a horribly painful process with serious
consequences, and it makes sense for him to strongly discourage them in case
they decide to hire someone else or yank them on their own. Best of all, he
forks over some rewards to console them.
That being said, this entire short is pretty dull, because its preachiness is so plain - more than probably any other Hal Roach OUR GANG I've seen, it barely even tries to be funny or charming.
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