The Sunday Intertitle: Curses!

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Thanks to Donald Benson for the heads-up re Hairbreadth Harry‘s movie adaptations. I managed to locate one, DANGER AHEAD.

Don B. nailed it — the thing isn’t exactly hilarious but it’s sort of zesty and unusual. Director Scott Pembroke specialised in broad parody, helming some of Stan Laurel’s early adventures, such as DR. PICKLE AND MR. PRYDE, whose title tells you all you really need to know about both the subject and the level of wit involved.

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Interesting that the tied-to-the-railway-tracks trope and moustache-twirling villain, long associated in the popular imagination with early silents, were never more than pastiche elements spoofing stage melodrama. TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE also makes this clear.

Twenty-year-old Earl McCarthy makes an ideal Harry, throwing himself into genuinely dangerous business with locomotives and moveable bridges, as do the rest of the cast. It wasn’t the stunts that got Earl — he died of a heart attack at twenty-six.

Still, DANGER AHEAD lacks the lunatic invention of its strip cartoon source material, which is a shame. Since the early days, comic adaptations have tended to leave out the crazier elements which make their inspiration memorable, while usually failing to provide the greater depth of character which live actors can provide.

DANGER AHEAD’s intertitles keep up the parodic pace, with nearly every one of them a mockery of heroic hokum and laden with puns and nonsense. But nothing has the slangy wit of Relentless Rudolph’s dialogue in the newspaper strip, where he tosses off caddish remarks such as “I must throw the glooms into this shindig!” and the incorrigible Phil Lander declares “Ah sweetums! Effulgent as the roseate morn! Those eyes! Those nose! Them lips!”

 

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3 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Curses!”

  1. Michael Santoro Says:

    Attention: dcairnsIn a January 5, 2009 comments response to my inquiry regarding Caesar and Cleopatra (C&C) you mentioned  that you were planninga post based on Lawrie Knight’s memories of C&C. Have you progressed with that project. I would be eager to learn of the contents. Thanks Mike Santoro

  2. Thanks for the reminder! Here’s a bit I did:
    https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/follow-that-camel/
    But there’s more, and I should write it down before too much more time passes.
    Watch this space.

  3. I hope you get a chance to see “Sign Them Papers,” in which Earl McCarthy is astonishing in drag (I saw it at a local film archive; I think it’s available to stream on Fandor).

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