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Oh! What a Day! (1923)
Lots of action, not so much sense.
Here's a classic example of the inferior quality of the Universal shorts, even at a time when they were putting a few dollars into it. The story is as thin as a one sentence summary; " The Gumps go to an amusement park, and then go home." It's packed with contrived, obvious gags like: switching out a blown tire on his car, the balloon on the replacement is already ruptured, so he cuts away that section. Nowhere to go, it apparently meant no further problems, so off they go. He goes fishing, and to keep a caught fish "quiet", he produces a heretofore unseen rifle and lets go with a blast that puts a hole in the bottom of the boat they're in. He doesn't notice until he's underwater. Walking along later, they encounter the midway guess-your-weight guy. Apropos of nothing, Andy asks him to allow him to guess the weight of a fat woman nearby. He says go ahead, and then, confronted by the woman, Andy's all flustered and nervous as if he's been forced to do it. Of course, he overstates her poundage, so she slugs him, but getting to a quick burst of violence at any cost in logic or coherence is not worth it. Also, the ghastly phony noses on Andy and Uncle Bim are stunning.
Another straw man vanquished.
Here's a fine example of one's opponents controlling the perception of the other side. It was done much more cerebrally back in the days of Barry Goldwater, when those evil conservatives were considered to have an intellectual dimension. In this case, the bad guy is an advanced law school student, who's psychologically deranged about the fact that his teacher is a liberal,(unusually, the term "Liberal" is used, "Conservative" is not)a foreigner that changed his name (though nothing is said as to him possibly being a Jew, we just aren't given any more information than he's from Poland)and worst of all, he insists that there be an element of mercy guiding court judgments, especially in death penalty cases.
Sounds reasonable, but crazy conservative insists on death every time. The always-given hypocrisy of conservatives is revealed here because he's tried to have the Professor murdered. An early depiction of equating conservatives with criminality.
Mothers of Men (1917)
Exploitive pot boiler.
This story involves the seldom seen, if ever phenomenon of a female jurist in those days who is eventually pitted in court against her lawyer husband and later, he's sentenced for a murder he didn't commit, just as she's about to have a baby. It's sheer mawkish mush for those who enjoy a good cry, a typical silent cheapie, with semi-or non- distinguished actors, and unimaginative direction. How come scene after scene has everyone tightly grouped together, so all will be in the shot, even in a larger room? It has strange touches like repeatedly reminding us that the newspaper the bad guy editor edits is called the Democrat, and the weep-insurance of having an utterly gratuitous blind sister, overplayed by a gal that has never seen a blind individual. Like many low budget, states-rights pictures, it has a pretentious but mystifying name, "Mothers of Men" being a phrase usually used in connection with the mothers of soldiers. Here it seems like a copyrighted in advance name. Another classic States rights characteristic was they re-released it with a new name a few years later, now with the equally abstruse alias, "Every Woman's Problem" which by the fantastic novelty of the story would mean the title is the exact opposite of the subject shown.
Moonlight Nights (1925)
A weak excuse for comedy.
This is an example of the low grade states-rights shorts that existed in the silent era. Outside of veteran character player Max Asher, nobody is recognizable here. Nearly everything about it is bad, the humor level is below that of the dreadful Pizor productions, the actors seem mainly unattractive, and all act like the rankest amateurs, throwing exaggerated poses and reactions like they were in a 1902 melodrama or a home movie. The gags are predicable or pointless, the props terribly cheap. Even the positioning in the shots and film editing is poor. A century on, we tend to think of the 1920's slapstick comedy films in terms of Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton, and Mack Sennett, but the picture goer of that time was much more familiar with this sort of thing on a daily basis.
A tasteless helping of shock.
This is one of those plays that, unless it's explained beforehand, one doesn't realise it is intended as comedy until a few minutes in. The court case depicted seems at first to involve a thoroughly corrupt, evil doctor who has cold bloodedly had a patient's healthy legs amputated as he supposedly wished it. He died of shock hours later, and then forced a colleague into a compromising situation to cover it up. Then we hear more about the patient's desire for the amputations, and I thought this may turn into an examination of the bizarre psychological dementia known as apotemnophilia, where the patient indeed does want limbs cut away. But soon it dawned on me, slow that I am, that the characters, that came to testify as well as the judge, are dim or exaggerated comedy types that have silly mannerisms and unintentionally funny things to say, even as the story grows ever more sinister. It comes out that the doctor is part of a conspiracy to make unknowing customers of a clothing shop into willing amputees, and has been a success with hundreds of now-satisfied victims.
This sort of gruesome black humour is the sort of product that comes from uninhibited contempt that elite actors and writers have for their audience in Britain. Needless controversy for it's own sake. That it slanders the medical profession held up it's transmission for two years, but it should have just been "wiped" instead.
The Defenders: The Accident (1961)
Science v. Faith
The story involves a boy's injury after an auto accident, but his parents are against surgery because their religion forbids it, he dies soon after.
The flighty girl that caused the accident while driving drunk is early on established as a low intellect, emotional child-woman whom we can freely pity and care about, whereas the parents are rigid, and stone faced, holding to their extreme dogma that all but insures the boy's death. (The name of their church is a made-up denomination.)
A shining hero in the form of the state appears, overriding the parent's stupid superstitions and the boy does get worked on, but maybe too much time was lost arguing with the primitives, and death comes.
Later in court, a doctor testifies that possibly operating in time might not have saved the lad's life. So the medical profession, and science, is off the hook. Then it comes out that the prayer-obsessed father made the boy get out of his bed multiple times to pray, rupturing the wounds and that, unsubtley suggests that religion killed the kid. The drunk driver is off the hook too, and gets a slap on the wrist. The lesson here is, I take it, The world would be a better place if we could do away with religious faith just like we can with parental rights.
The Defenders: Killer Instinct (1961)
Anti-death penalty tract.
Shatner plays the squeaky-cleanest defendant ever to face a murder rap. He's an upper class, super clean cut young WASP stock broker, fairly screaming respectability. His strange encounter with a completely unsympathetic, big ugly, poorly dressed creep that starts fights at random, even in Manhattan's crowded morning streets, leaves viewers with no other interpretation other than Shatner's complete innocence and the bully had it coming when he was killed in the scuffle.
After making up these unreal characters and unreal situation, we get to the propaganda freight, also, steeped in unreality. It seems our hero has irrational guilt anyway, and protected himself using combat training from his Korean War service. Why is he guilty? Enough to demand he be found thusly at his hearing. he has an oh-so-high minded speech about the morality of killing and how he wants to take on responsibility for war itself. This self-righteous social-political pomposity is reminiscent of Chaplin's Cri de Coeur about war in Monsieur Verdoux, and just as fake.
Wallace asks various questions about Sanger's attitudes on topics associated with her, including what she thought about those that opposed her pro-abortion work, especially the Roman Catholic church. However, not much progress is made as she dodges, disavows and feigns ignorance of quoted letters she wrote, newspaper interviews she gave and even comments she made to Wallace's staff earlier that week. Perhaps by avoiding answering questions about her own words tells us more about her than she thought she was concealing. She comes off very arrogant and slippery. In a strange twist at the end, I guess to put some kind of light note to the proceedings, she tells Wallace after he does his live pitch for Phillip Morris cigarettes, that though she doesn't smoke, she cheerfully intends to start now, with Phillip Morris.
Wallace had a reputation for being a hard-nosed interrogator with his one-on-one interview on the dark set technique pioneered on "Night Beat". Here, his initial offering in this new series featured film star Gloria Swanson, once a top star in the 1920's, and then making a comeback as a character actress. Somehow, Wallace never gets around to discussing her nightmarish marriage to Wallace Beery, her scandalous relationship with Joseph Kennedy, or the controversial production of "Queen Kelly"(1929) with Eric von Stroheim. Instead, bland conversation about "Hollywood Boulevard"(1950)and her recent work are featured. Also, she brings up a Mexican cancer medicine she's invested in. About the most hard-hitting question asked of her is about her age.
Yet another lesson about those dastardly conservatives.
First, I'll add my sentiments here that though "Burke's Law" could sometimes get a little on the tongue-in-cheek side, accommodating the many guest cameos, it made a wrong turn when they changed it to a humourless, undistinguished secret agent story. It's no wonder that this incarnation was cancelled in mid-season. Perhaps they felt they could stir up interest or maybe controversy with this two-parter. It's about a seemingly thriving American town with upscale, content people. Turns out they're all mind controlled dupes being fed hateful conservative lies via subliminal radio messages. Anybody exposed to TV in the last half century knows what that entails- bigotry and paranoia for anyone "Different". In 1966 you wouldn't go full bore racist, so the lead pipe subtlety here is focused on mere out-of-towners, though unusual for it's time, especially in a silly show like this, at one point in part two "commies" are named. The town boss's goal is that of all those who show right wing tendencies on TV-He has a mad scheme to take over the country. If it weren't for the oppressive "Fairness Doctrine" in effect then, I'm sure they'd just come out and call these power crazed villains Republicans. Another easy show of bravery in the one-sided war against straw men.