Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Roughest Africa (USA, 1923)
Another film by English actor Stan Laurel before his successful regular pairing with Oliver Hardy. Laurel had been in films for around 10 years before he started working with Hardy, mostly in films that did not stand out both in quality or humor. Perhaps, were not for the Laurel & Hardy duo, if those comedians kept on working on their own, they could ran the risk of not having their proper place in the history of cinema.
Despite having a kinda original plot for a situational comedy, the material of this film has average quality and does not provide much laughter. It is a politically incorrect film for nowadays’ standards because the characters are supposed to hunt animals, including a scene where Laurel tries to shoot a elephant. Although the animal was not hurt, such scene would be of bad taste for current standards. The scene where the elephant swallows a gun is also far from pleasant.
The film remains interesting, as it spoofs travelogues that showed “exotic” parts of the world, their native populations, wildlife, landscapes, etc, often with a imperialist tone. Such documentaries were into fashion in the first decades of XX century.
Some pioneers are in Africa, although they really lack the bravery they were supposed to have. The scenery and natives look terribly fake already on first sight. The natives, for instance, were white acctors in black face, with make up that was far from sophisticated even to its own era.
The pioneers face unfriendly natives and wild animals. Not surprisingly, they really lack any hunting skill whatsoever and it is apparently easier to them to shoot each other than to shoot a animal.
Still talking about animals, it is not hard for nowadays’ audiences realize that neither bears nor Asian elephants are native species of Africa and even the fauna around the actors sometimes look really like the fauna of Northern America. A mistake that would not really go unnoticed in a current film.
The interaction between people and animals in the jungle and the attempt of pioneers to film the animals provide the input to the gags of this film. The plot became old with time, but this film retains some historical value of an era when hunting animals to death was considered an accomplishment and socially acceptable.