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Defective Detectives (1944)

El and Harry are two office cleaners turned detectives who are assigned to chase a gangster, but they end up catching the husband and wife they are supposed to protect from him.


Harry Edwards


Harry Edwards


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Cast overview:
El Brendel ... El
Harry Langdon ... Harry
Vernon Dent ... Rodney Boodle
Christine McIntyre ... Mrs. Rodney Boodle
George J. Lewis ... H.E. Boos (as George Lewis)


El and Harry are two office cleaners turned detectives who are assigned to chase a gangster, but they end up catching the husband and wife they are supposed to protect from him.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

private detective | See All (1) »


They're on the trail of a beautiful gun-moll...and it leads to a screenful of laffs and howls! (One-sheet poster).


Comedy | Short


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Columbia Pictures production number 4017. See more »

User Reviews

Defective, but still rather enjoyable
30 September 2009 | by hte-trasmeSee all my reviews

It seems that in 1944 the bosses at Columbia Pictures' shorts department didn't really know what to do with El Brendel, the not-especially-versatile Swedish dialect comic who was on their payroll. I don't blame them, as I don't really find Brendel very funny, which is not good in a comedian. They decided to try to make a comedy team (the studio constructed a number of its own comedy teams over the years) out of Brendel and the great Harry Langdon, who had played his distinctive child-man character in many excellent and popular silent shorts for Mack Sennett and features for his own production company in the 1920s, but who was now sixty and starring only in less prestigious productions.

The partnership lasted only a few films as Langdon, sadly, would die that year during the production of one of them. However, based on the evidence of "Defective Detectives" it did Langdon no favors and Brendel the big favor of letting him leech off of Langdon's star, comic skills, and presence. He even gets first billing before Langdon, which is wrong -- logical as it might be if you want to make Brendel look like a bigger star than he should be.

The two play two hastily-hired detectives (and former detective's-office-cleaners) who must chase a gangster, but end up catching the man and woman they are supposed to protect from him. The director is Harry Edwards, but the boss at the studio was Jules White, who felt that lots of broad slapstick kept the film moving so it was never dull. That's in effect here, as a number of generic pratfalls take place, leaving no impression but not being distinctly UNFUNNY either. At this pace, the veteran comedian Langdon, with a determine and familiar character who lives largely in his body language, can insert funny little character moments, looks, and bits between the lines, and he does. El Brendel just runs around like anybody and occasionally talks in a bad Swedish accent.

The fact that Brendel and Langdon are teamed means they get to engage in pieces of snappy little Abbott-and-Costello-ish dialogue. This helps Brendel more since well-written lines are about the only way for him to get laughs, but they are not the way best suited to Harry Langdon. The scene where they find out they have been re-hired as detectives has some nice one-liners in it, but is really made but Harry's slow little half-moon smile of pleasure that crawls across his face while everybody else interacts with each other.

There's a great and very funny moment of classic Harry Langdon, when he's sitting on a couch that El accidentally moves on his back while trying to crawl under it. He takes maybe forty-five seconds to look up from his newspaper, study the moving wall perplexedly, recheck himself, and finally realize that the wall appears to be moving. Then, knowing he won't make sense of it, he gives up, lies down, and goes to sleep. I don't think anybody else could take that long or be that funny on that gag.

There's a bit, here rather randomly inserted, in which a mannequin leg is mistaken for a woman's real leg that has come off, which was seen in Harry Langdon's wonderful 1927 short feature "His First Flame." Langdon, Harry Edwards (who directed both films), or both must have remembered it, but both were generous enough to give it here to El Brendel, who adds nothing to the gag itself. Harry gets to deliver a nice punchline to "I found a woman's leg:" "Where's the rest of the woman?" Snub Pollard, former star of his own series of silent shorts, has a small bit role as a policeman. It's odd to hear his (rather unremarkable, but not bad) speaking voice. For me, anyway, seeing him reminded me that even though Harry Langdon was sharing billing with a comic whose only skill was delivering lines in a flat Swedish dialect, he hadn't fallen very far at all compared with at least one of his contemporaries.

After Langdon's death, Brendel didn't appear in any more shorts for Columbia. If it had been Brendel who died, I bet Langdon would have. It's too bad for him he had to be placed in an awkward and unsuitable comedy team, but this particular short still manages to be entertaining and get some laughs, due to some nice lines and bits, a sympathetic director, and Langdon's mere presence, despite its flaws.

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Release Date:

3 April 1944 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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