Harold Bledsoe, a botany student, is called back home to San Francisco, where his late father had been police chief, to help investigate a crime wave in Chinatown.Written by
Herman Seifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Clyde Bruckman's solution for reworking the film as a talkie was to eliminate half the silent version and re-shoot it as a talkie. The remaining half of the picture would be dubbed - - a cumbersome experience that Lloyd found difficult to accomplish. The result was awkward and it's easy to spot the dubbed scenes in the film (most apparent in the Chinatown sequence Lloyd shares with Noah Young as Officer Clancy). It's readily apparent that Young was especially poor at looping his own voice. The problem of the speaking actors locked in place under an immobile microphone in some of the freshly shot sound sequences is also painfully apparent. See more »
In many of the dubbed scenes, the voices are out of synchronization with the actors' lip movements. See more »
There is an all-silent version of this film distributed to unwired cinemas which includes more of the original "silent" version and is adapted with inter-titles for the newer sound sequences. See more »
As you might have read here, this movie bridges silents and sound, having been shot without sound, and reshot when sound arrived -- and it appears that little of the silent material was used. There are silent-style titles between scenes, but basically we're watching an early sound film.
Sadly, like many early sound films, it's bogged down by the clumsy technology. The camera is static and actionless... in a Harold Lloyd movie! Harold has few action scenes, or even moments, for most of the film. Meanwhile, his character, speaking for the first time, turns out to be a smart-aleck, not at all like his sympathetic silent persona. Add to that the many moments when he bops somebody on the head or kicks them in the pants, which in sound comes off as painful more than comic. And the fact that he keeps casually destroying other people's property with no motivation makes him come off as, well, kind of a jerk.
Sound quality is not bad for the primitive era, but many scenes are obviously redubbed. And the dialogue! It's inane, which is bad enough. But worse, it's painfully slow, mostly overpronounced in projected, stage-actory voices. As a result, the film drags on at an adagio pace for just short of two hours. Way too long for any comedy.
And to read, again here, that it was previewed at THREE HOURS, tells me that this must have been one of the classic ill-fated Hollywood productions.
And yet... There are some real treats here. Edgar Kennedy is great as the irascible desk sergeant. He's on screen for a long time, but unbilled. Meanwhile, prominent billing goes to Charles Middleton as the weaselly John Thorne. This pleased me because four years later, Middleton and Kennedy both appeared (not together) in one of the one or two greatest comedies ever made, Duck Soup.
In Duck Soup, Kennedy has a series of great scenes -- as the lemonade salesman with Harpo, followed by Harpo, Chico, and the hat-and-leg-swapping routine. And when Freedonia goes to war, he gets to sit on Harpo in the bath.
Meanwhile, Charles Middleton, third-billed here, has merely a bit in Duck Soup, as the prosecutor at Chicolini's trial, playing straight man to Chico and Groucho. Short, but like every moment of Duck Soup, sublime.
Out of respect to the greatness of Harold Lloyd, I can't give this less than a five. But no more, either. It's for diehards & completists only. I'm one myself, but this is a long, hard slog.
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