Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Nowadays when once-viable actors become too old or too relegated to past moom pitcher experiences to cut the mustard w/current day B.O. bonanzas they either gracefully retire to some other moneymaking venture or they end up appearing in roles tailor made for their now-bygone acting styles. More often than not these hasbeens pop up on television dramas that cater to the old fogey types (THE LOVE BOAT and MURDER SHE WROTE were two good eighties examples), or better yet they turn up on direct to video ventures that can be found easily enough via "Buy It Now" auctions on ebay. Of course the only place we see any of 'em nowadays is on afternoon television endorsing Life Alert or some bogus insurance policy for seniors that always seemed scammy to begin with.  However, in the old days when actors found themselves hitting upon hard times they usually hadda rely on friends in the industry to get them bit parts in films, or if lucky they'd still end up starring in big enough features via the Poverty Row studios who specialized in low-budget crankouts that seemed to vanish into the ether once even the lowliest UHF station ditched such programming somewhere in the late-fifties.

Only a spoiled primadonna would have shuddered at such a future of bit roles for aging thessies, but at least  most out of work actors (who perhaps saw their profession as a legit alternative to working in dad's grain store back in Cornplug Idaho) relished the idea of emoting in front of a camera no matter where or why. Naturally Harry Langdon, along with Buster Keaton was one who continued an acting career throughout his long and perhaps even illustrious career long after the film snobs had decided to write him off with a vengeance. A veteran of Sennett, Roach, Educational and Columbia, Langdon was at one time pegged as "the new Chaplin" (as if the old one wasn't enough!) destined for great things...however while Chaplin spent the talkie era making dudsville features that came off painfully stilted, arty and so unfunny that only a stodgy film critic could laugh at 'em, Langdon was romping it up in wacko comedy shorts and in East Side Kids features that continue to hold the attention of true fun loving crazoids like myself a good seventysome years after they were created. And of course he could be found headlining a number of quickies himself including this wonder from  PRC studios, a low-budget wowzer entitled HOUSE OF ERRORS where the comedy great is teamed up with yet another forgotten fave, none other than Charley Rogers (a limey whose fuddy-duddy Edward Everett Horton-esque nature makes for a good balance to Langdon's  overripe natural ineptitude).

Simple enough plot here custom made for the early days of WW II jitters with the team of Langdon and Rogers playing some "errand boys" for a newspaper who, after being fired, decide to become reporters themselves and get the lowdown on a new experimental rifle being developed by a reclusive inventor (shades of Vera Vague!) . Meanwhile this loudmouth reporter for the paper that Langdon and Rogers got 86'd from misrepresents himself to the inventor as being from an American Legion publication thus gaining access to the scoop he so desires (as well as the nurse daughter of the inventor whom he's been making goo-goo's at while in the hospital cafeteria). Of course when you throw in the suspicious-looking family friend (the mustache is always a tip-off!) and his sidekick out to steal the plans you know you're gonna be in for one of those hour-long crazy serio-comedies that have so much life to 'em because somehow, they're acted so every-day like you kinda feel like you're spyin' on 'em from the crack in the bathroom door!

Many nice comedy routines here courtesy Langdon and Rogers, including various old-timey gags that always looked fresh in the hands of such pros as well as with Abbot and Costello and The Three Stooges. The overall effect, perhaps heightened by the worn film and occasional splices, do conjure up memories of past late-night ennui watching the UHF rays at 12:30 AM on an especially sticky August night or maybe MATINEE AT THE BIJOU also during the late-night hours during a time in your life when you were at the crossroads and the only thing you felt like doing was tramping on the grass to the nearest outhouse! A real nice way to spend an hour, and a fine way to re-connect yourself with a past that most Social Planner-types would love you to forget lest you remember that there used to be this thing called "fun" that somehow didn't fit in with the curriculum ifyaknowaddamean... If there's a low-wattage station in your neck of the boonies you might wanna check the local tee-vee schedule for the next three AM showing.

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