4 February 2011 | Igenlode Wordsmith
A short comedy, padded
This was one of three feature-length comedies made by Walter Forde to capitalise on the success of his earlier shorts, and in this example, at least, he hasn't really managed to rustle up enough extra plot to fill in the extended running time. Most of the film consists of Walter being chased by an escaped lunatic, while the final portion of the film consists of a single protracted farcical chase in and around the museum after closing-time, in which all the rival parties turn up one after another and attempt to make off with the same object -- this is probably very funny if you find that sort of thing funny, but I found that it wore thin before the end. The story might have worked better as a two-reeler; it's not a bad film, but for 1928 it's fairly primitive as a feature-length offering.
However, it contains a number of excellent performances: specifically, Douglas Payne is convincing as the mad ex-archaeologist, despite a part that requires him to go over the top repeatedly -- especially when the character remembers that he is supposed to be Napoleon; and tiny Ian Wilson stands out as the ridiculously self-possessed 'Watson' to his colleague's 'Society Holmes' (this pair of characters, who provide character-based comedy rather than farce, are in my view under-used in the film). There is a very funny scene in the "Idle Homes Exhibition" (the level of puns, it may be discerned, is not a very elevated one) where Walter and his neighbour at the café table both believe they have identified the other as the subject of a newspaper item, and each unwittingly confirm the other's suspicions... although this joke, like many others, is ultimately milked too long.
This film showed in a joint bill with the 1927 comedy "Walter the Sleuth", which made it inadvertently apparent that two of the plot devices used here (the fight whose participants disable one another, and the dogged pursuit by an innocent party) had originated more or less verbatim in the previous year's short release: I don't know if these were common Walter Forde scenarios, or if it was a case of straight recycling.
I have rated the film relatively lowly because I felt it did go on a bit, and because I don't actually enjoy farce that much. On the other hand, within its running time it definitely does have some good moments.