'Dumb Dicks' is as dire as its title. I wanted to see this comedy short (from the obscure RKO-Pathe stable) because I knew Benny Rubin, who worked consistently in showbiz from vaudeville into the 1970s, yet never attained stardom: this awful short movie is one of his few lead roles. (Lead? More like leaden.)
I've never found Harry Gribbon funny, and he has weakened at least one good comedy for me -- 'Show People' -- with his antics. Here, Rubin and Gribbon are detectives who snooze in their car outside the Lafayette National Bank during a very loud robbery. In the first two minutes of this movie, something like three hundred gunshots are fired ... all of them fortissimo.
All the gags in this movie are witless, but I'll decipher one gag which modern audiences would probably miss. While their car is parked outside the aforementioned savings institution, Rubin tells Gribbon that they need to get to the Lafayette National Bank. Gribbon looks round, sees where they are, and announces: 'Lafayette ... we're here already!' In 1931, American audiences would have recognised this line as a reference to "Lafayette, we are here" ... a patriotic catchphrase from the previous World War. However, I'd bet solid money that even audiences who 'got' this so-called joke back in 1931 didn't think it was funny.
In a couple of previous IMDb reviews, I've made unfavourable comments about Billy Franey, an untalented silent-film comedian. Franey played the title role in the unfunny 1921 film 'The Janitor'. Now here it is ten years later, and Billy Franey is still playing a janitor in 'Dumb Dicks'. He isn't funny here, either. I was hoping at least to hear his voice. Several silent-era comedians saw their careers die because their voices were unsuitable for talkies ... but Franey's career had long since peaked before talkies arrived.
Anyroad, it turns out that the leader of the robbery gang is a crimelord named Jabez, so Rubin and Gribbon go to Jabez's secret hideout (I guess it's listed in the Yellow Pages, under "Secret Hideouts"), and they ponce right in through the front door wearing ridiculous disguises.
The one and only thing I found intriguing about this dim movie (besides the fact that I'd known Benny Rubin personally) is that the chief villain Jabez is played by Ivan Linow. This huge burly Latvian immigrant was just beginning to develop an interesting career as a character actor at the end of the silent era, when his thick accent put paid to his chances. (And the talkies also revealed that he wasn't much of an actor.) In 1930, Linow gave a fine performance in 'The Unholy Three' (as one-third of that trio), then gave a bizarre performance in 'Just Imagine' as a gay Martian! Linow was so good in this role, he could have been typecast playing gay Martians. Sadly, that proved to be the peak of his career, and a few months later Linow was appearing in rubbish like 'Dumb Dicks'. Still, he gives the best performance in this movie.
My rating for 'Dumb Dicks': just one point out of 10. If you watch it on a VCR or DVD player, keep the volume turned well down during the opening sequence until the shooting stops.
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