Movies I Need To See Before I Die: WILD AND WOOLLY (1917)

399px-Wild_and_Woolly

(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

Yup!  That’s right!  I watched ANOTHER silent movie starring Douglas Fairbanks.  I have already reviewed THE MARK OF ZORRO and THE GAUCHO last month for this column.  What can I say.  I’m really loving this guy.  I looked up his filmography and pretty much added everything that is available that he stars in to my rental queue.  I thought that WILD AND WOOLLY sounded like fun so I had it to delivered to me right away.  And since it was made in 1917, that makes it the oldest feature-length film I have ever seen.  That’s pretty neat, huh?

Faribanks plays Jeff, a New Yorker who works an office job at his father’s business.  He hates it.  You see, Jeff is a dreamer.  He wants adventure and excitement.  He’s obsessed with the “old west” and constantly daydreams about it.  He even wears a cowboy hat and gun while working in the office, driving everyone nuts.  His father is dealing with a client down in Arizona and decides it would be a good idea to get Jeff  by sending him down there.  The young adventurer is pumped about his trip because he thinks that it’s still like the “old west” out there.  Well, the people out in Arizona hear about Jeff’s obsession and decide that it would be amusing if they made up the town and dressed up, pretending it’s still like the old days.  When Jeff arrives, he’s ecstatic as he experiences (staged) gunfights and horse chases, but when a rival client steps into ruin the deal, things turn into a “real”, dangerous adventure.

I think the premise is pretty darn terrific.  I love movies about imaginative daydreamers.  Heck!  I’m one myself.  It’s easy to identify with Jeff as he wants more than just the average life.  The opening scenes with him playing around the office produced a few chuckles from me, like when he lassos a fellow co-worker.  This is definitely more lighthearted than the other Fairbanks films I have seen.  This felt more like a Harold Lloyd comedy, which is fine by me.

Unfortunately, the movie never really fully delivers on its premise.  The set up is there, but the laughs aren’t big enough and the adventure just isn’t that rousing.  Fairbanks is charming as usual, but it’s not as detailed of a performance as what was to come later in his career.  The charisma is certainly there and he does do a couple of nifty stunts, but for the most part his character is one-note.  There’s a love interest that is never fully utilized, a villain that isn’t fully realized, and a climax that kind of peters out.  The first 20 minutes showed promise but once Jeff gets to the Old West, I didn’t think it was as energetic as it should have been.  It’s also crudely directed.  And what was up with that tacked on ending?  It was really jarring, almost as if there was some important footage that was cut out.

The other thing I must mention is that the DVD version I saw wasn’t very good.  The print wasn’t the greatest, but the worst part about it was the music.  None of it seemed to fit with any of the scenes.  There was romantic music during the action scenes and then exciting music during slower scenes.  It was all backwards.  I would love to see this movie with the proper music.  But, it’s still not a great movie, so I still probably wouldn’t like it.

While I have found myself a Fairbanks fan as of late, WILD AND WOOLLY is a disappointment.  There’s still a likable performance from the lead actor, some inspired slapstick, and a couple of cool stunts, but ultimately the film doesn’t live up to its premise.  I can’t help but think how much better this could have been if Harold Lloyd made this one.   ★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Not rated but contains some bloodless violence.  Maybe PG?

– Running time: 1hr 3min.

(WILD AND WOOLLY is available to rent on DVD from Netflix)



Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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