If you examine Lloyd Hamilton's filmography covering his years as a solo comedian you'll find that some of the titles paint a vivid picture of his approach to comedy. This is the man who starred in A Self-Made Failure, No Luck, Lonesome, Nothing Matters, and other bleak-sounding works that suggest Samuel Beckett plays rather than light-hearted romps. And when you watch the films themselves it's clear that this was a guy with a rather dark view of life. Ham was a pudgy, fussy-looking man in a flat cap who never played the heroic young swain, like Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd; he typically portrayed a hapless, victimized fellow who tries hard but often fails to achieve his goals. Consequently, some people may not enjoy Hamilton's comediesthey aren't exactly a morale booster if you're feeling depressedbut for viewers with a taste for the comedy of disaster his work can be quite funny. He was a gifted clown with a fertile imagination who always came up with startling, cartoon-y sight gags.
Crushed (note the uplifting title) is typical of Ham's style. His plots are generally just loose excuses for the gags, but this one is even more disjointed than usual. Ham plays Mr. Jones, a small-town inventor who must marry quickly in order to receive an inheritance. To do this he goes to the big city and immediately has problems dealing with the subway system. Ham is pushed, pulled, pummeled, caught in the closing doors, etc. Anyone familiar with silent comedies from the 1920s has probably seen similar routinesright around the time this film was made there were subway sequences featuring everyone from Harry Langdon to Gloria Swansonbut I believe this one is the most harrowing. Ham makes the process of boarding the right train and dealing with frenzied mobs of commuters look like something out of a horrible nightmare. (Moreover, he makes it look even worse than it actually is!) Eventually Jones reaches the office of the Justice of the Peace, where he is going to marry a total stranger in order to "save his fortune," but due to a misunderstanding he winds up married to a different woman, a very large lady who already has a few chubby kids. After more subway misadventures the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Jones wind up reluctantly hosting another couple in their home that evening. And then, just to keep things interesting, a big electrical storm blows in. The visiting couple must spend the night, but the roof leaks so badly that Mr. Jones is dispatched to the rooftop to fix the shingles in the downpour. For the grand finale, the portion of the roof he's hammering is torn away by the wind. The unlucky Mr. Jones rides across the sky like Edwin S. Porter's Rarebit Fiend, over the neighboring rooftops, amazed.
That's the gist of it, and it's plenty silly but enjoyable if you're in the mood for this sort of thing. It feels like the plot was jerry-rigged around the subway sequences, which are the comic highpoint. Viewers who are sensitive to the rough handling of animals in old movies may be disturbed by a series of gags involving a live duck. Ham buys the duck at a store as part of his "groceries" and must transport him home on that accursed subway, and the duck comes in for some bumpy treatment: the cage he's in is dropped to the ground and kicked over, and then Ham takes a fall while holding him. I confess I winced during these scenes and hope the duck wasn't actually harmed, but those were different times, of course, and filmmakers weren't always very scrupulous about such matters. The poor duck was probably served up as the main course at the film's wrap party.
In any case, Crushed is a fairly amusing example of Lloyd Hamilton's work. It may not be the best of his surviving films (I'd vote for Careful Please or Nobody's Business over this one), but it will give first-time viewers a sense of this notable comedian's strengths and drawbacks.
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