1 October 2000 | inclass
Radio Listeners Cannot See The Costumes!
In my opinion, it is not so much that the rascals are in some competition with slick little performers, but as is pointed out in the film, a young dancer who is dressed in a suit, and has fancy moves, in how he may sway his arms in time with a beat when he dances, which are strictly visual, cannot possibly be appreciated by a radio audience. The same is true of cute little girls dressed up in Hawaiian outfits, who are winking on cue while they dance the hula in a procession around the sound stage. That would mean nothing to a radio listener who can't see what is going on, which makes the whole idea of the non-"our gang" participants so funny; not that they are slick or perfect while the gang is not, but that the gang had prepared a song to perform, and performed it well, which is what a radio listener can really appreciate, no matter how the performer is dressed, rag tag or not, and no matter what their instruments look like, which to a radio audience, can't possibly matter. Not realizing this, (as Maltin didn't either, according to his spoken review of this film on the newly released video), Spanky throws his arms up and declares, "Well, that's that!" thinking the gang lost the contest to a dancer before the gang even tried out. But the joke is, while the dancer was very good, who can see a dancer on their radio? This is why the more visual acts were a "fright" for the "mike" (or microphone). A radio microphone only picks up sound. The gag or joke is not slick kids compared to our rag tag heroes, but the content of the act being suitable to radio, which only the rascals got right, despite their appearance. Now that's funny! It seems that Hal Roach pulled the wool over quite a few eyes when making this film. The highlight in "Mike Fright" for me, is the rare, early appearance, in fact his first, of one of Hollywood's most talented young stars of the 30's and early 40's, Billy Lee, who, at age 4, does quite an impressive tap routine for his age.