Welcome Danger (1929)
Originally directed by as a silent film by Malcom St. Clair this “talkie” was largely re-shot by director Clyde Bruckman who also shares the story writing credit with Felix Adler & Lex Neal and Paul Girard Smith (dialogue). It features one of the “big three” silent comedians Harold Lloyd with plenty of gags. The sound quality is quite poor though it’s better at some times than others.
Botanist Harold Bledsoe (Lloyd) is summoned to San Francisco by police Captain Walton (Will Walling) who hopes the son of their former captain (picture of E. H. Calvert uncredited) can help solve the opium problem in the city’s Chinatown district. John Thorne (Charles Middleton) is a civic leader who has demanded that something be done though he is secretly “The Dragon” the leader responsible for the drug’s proliferation in the first place. On his way West Harold meets Billie Lee (Barbara Kent) and her little brother Buddy (Douglas Haig). Though he initially mistakes Billie for a young man named Bill who’s trying to fix his jalopy he eventually finds out that “he” is the “she” whose picture he had superimposed on his own by a faulty “take your picture” machine at the train station. Of course once he finds out they fall in love with each other though they are then separated.
Once in San Francisco Harold immediately impresses the Captain by cleverly disarming a suspect (Brooks Benedict uncredited) who’d taken him and a couple of other policeman hostage in his own office. However he soon wears out his welcome when he becomes obsessed with fingerprinting. Edgar Kennedy uncredited plays the Desk Sergeant who seems to delight the most in tormenting Harold including giving him a fingerprint of Thorne and saying it’s the Dragon’s to get rid of him (of course we know that the two are the same anyway even though the Sergeant didn’t). Out looking for the Dragon Harold accidentally discovers how the opium is smuggled into the city when the botanist in him insists on purchasing a plant from a Chinatown shop. He also sees with Billie who is in San Francisco to see the Chinese Dr. Gow (James Wang uncredited) who she hopes can fix Buddy’s bad leg. At the same time that he reconnects with Billie Harold literally runs into or over Officer Clancy (Noah Young) who is ready to arrest Harold before learning who he is.
Harold and Officer Clancy end up working together to solve most of the mystery which includes trying to find the kidnapped Dr. Gow. Unfortunately the scenes with them in the Chinatown shop which is really a front for the Dragon’s base of operations & warehouse complete with hidden doorways and an underground area are overlong and repetitive. It’s also quite racist. Not only does Harold make the crack “they all look alike” but he and Officer Clancy are able to then “prove” the point by seamlessly blending in with the Chinese bandits simply by dressing as they do. There is another scene later in Thorne’s residence during a bout between Harold and Thorne’s black servant (Blue Washington) that also have racial overtones. However my primary complaint with this “talkie” and its substandard sound is that it’s not a very good showcase for Lloyd’s usual talents. The sight gags aren’t nearly as clever as I’d come to expect though perhaps I’ve only seen his better films. Plus it relies on the audience believing that the physically diminutive even thin comic is actually quite a dynamo as a fighter.