28 September 2004 | django-1
truncated silent version survives--a curio, not essential
Presumably, TROOPERS THREE was issued primarily as a sound film at feature length (IMDB lists it at 80 minutes)--my copy is a truncated silent edit that runs about 25 minutes. The first impression I had when first viewing this silent version a number of years ago was that it had very few close-ups, mostly medium and long shots. I'm guessing that the dialogue close-ups were edited out, and in a way I'm glad they were. Nothing is more boring than the silent versions of early sound films with endless dialogue cards and static photography. This shortened silent version of TROOPERS THREE has a lot of action (in medium and long shots, although there are some good low-angle close-ups of the cavalry in action) and some comedy (of the two directors credited, one presumes Breezy Eason handled the action and Norman Taurog the comedy). Basically, after a show of the REAL U.S. cavalry in action, three young men decide to enlist, and there are some comic sequences in the recruiting office. They go through basic cavalry training and become horse soldiers. Rex Lease pretends to be injured as a ruse to meet Dorothy Gulliver, he saves someone from a fire, there are a few other scenes, and it's over. This silent edit was probably put together quickly and cheaply for the few backwater theaters that still booked silent product in mid-1930 (and 1930 was the year when the last remaining silent theaters went under or went sound). Any sense of pacing or any plot development or complexity are lost in this version, but it's nice to have it extant if the sound version is lost. The cast is excellent, and Slim Summerville gets in a few good comic scenes, but with the editing and the lack of close-ups, no one--not even star Rex Lease--can be credited with much of a performance in the edited silent version. And since this was made with the intention of being a sound film (I'm guessing), it was not photographed or acted in a silent film manner. Still, Rex Lease completists (and I'm one of them!) will want to see this as will students of the early-sound/late-silent transitional period.