Saturday, 4 April 2009

Movie Review - Son of Paleface

Son of Paleface is the follow up to Bob Hope’s spoof western, Paleface, and in my humble opinion is much funnier. This time Hope stars as “Junior”, the son of his character in the original movie, who becomes a great hero through no fault of his own. Upon dying he has left an enormous fortune to Junior, who pops over in his dodgy car over from Harvard to collect his inheritance.

What he finds when he gets there is that “Pops” has not left a fortune at all, merely huge gambling debts and a lot of very angry creditors. At least, that’s what it seems like until an old, perpetually drunk pal of Paleface, Ebeneezer Hawkins (played brilliantly by Paul E Burns), points out that the real treasure must be hidden somewhere – if only they could find out where… before the creditors kill Junior…

While this is going on, a new agent is on the scene to track down an outlaw known as “The Torch” (“Mike” Delroy – played by Jane Russell, whose first appearance in the film is notable for the fact that she is wearing quite possibly the most hideous outfit ever made anywhere ever). His name is Roy Barton, who is played by The Singing Cowboy Roy Rogers not to forget his horse Trigger, of course). “Mike” owns a hotel, so naturally Junior thinks she might be a good person to get romantically involved with as she could pay off his father’s creditors while he finds the treasure. Being the bandit that she is, Mike thinks Junior will serve as a good alibi…

The humour in Son of Paleface is every bit as stupid as in the first film, but manages to be funnier for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s the culture clash element of Junior coming from college in his mortarboard to a town still trapped in the thrall of the Wild West. Then there are the other two main characters – Ebeneezer Hawkins and Roy Barton, the first of whom is hysterical and the second of which is funny simply for the fact that he only has 2 expressions – amused and bemused – and not much difference between those, either. But the star of the show is in fact Trigger the horse – especially when he starts stealing the bed sheets…

The plot is actually pretty good this time too, with some genuinely hilarious moments. Somehow everything about the film – the script, the special effects, the storyline, the dialogue – have improved greatly from the first film. Bob Hope is much more on form here, with his surreal one-liners frequently finding the mark, and Russell has more opportunity to display some comic talent here to. It helps if you’ve seen a few westerns to fully appreciate some of the jokes (yeah I know I don’t like westerns but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen some of them – that’s how I know I don’t like ‘em!), but on the whole the silly humour can be appreciated by anyone in the age range 2-120. There are some truly awful songs and jokes here, and you’ll probably be howling with laughter at all of them. There are even a few good stunts, including one where Roy Rogers chases after a wheel that’s flown off Junior’s car, puts it back onto the car and holds it up – then when he goes off to do something else Junior, sitting in the car, holds it up in complete defiance of the laws of gravity! (Well it made me laugh…)

Of the rest of the cast, Chief Yellow Cloud is back from the first film and as funny as ever, and in fact one of the really nice things about this film is that everyone looks as if they are really enjoying themselves. I suspect that many of the shots took countless shots to get right as most of the scenes requiring people to keep a straight face are the most difficult for them to do so! It helps a little to have seen the first film, but it’s not really necessary as everything you need to know is explained and the jokes are funny in their own right.

Considering how old this film is (1952), it has aged remarkably well. The colour and definition are obviously not up to today’s standards but don’t look terrible, and I guess stupid humour is basically timeless. Some films really look dated and the humour wanes noticeably, but that isn’t the case with Son of Paleface. Highly recommended!

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