Sunday 25 November 2007

Penrod's Double Trouble (1938) Lewis Seiler

Billy and Bobby, the Mauch twins, are back for another run through the confusion mill. This was the last of the three late thirties outings for Booth Tarkington's Penrod Schofield and most of the rest of the cast are back too. That includes most, if not all, of the Junior G Men Club, the dog playing Duke and Charles Halton as Mr Bitts. Unfortunately it doesn't include Frank Craven and Spring Byington as Mr and Mrs Schofield, and they're replaced by real life couple Gene and Kathleen Lockhart. Now Gene Lockhart is a great bumbler but I miss the understanding that Frank Craven brought to the part in the last film and Spring Byington was a hard act to follow.

As for story, there's more of the usual. Rodney Bitts causes more trouble, Penrod gets blamed and everything escalates from there. There's the usual shenanigans at the bank, the usual racial shenanigans with Verman and the usual shenanigans with the club. What gets added is that Penrod hides in a hot air balloon which gets let loose and so he disappears off into the beyond. We were introduced to his double Danny in Penrod and His Twin Brother, but for some reason that's all ignored here and Danny is now a completely new double with the same name as before. Yeah, believability doesn't really enter into proceedings here.

This Danny works at the same carnival from which Penrod's balloon flew off from, and when he and his colleagues realise the similarity, they embark on a scheme to claim the reward money by pretending to be the lost Penrod with amnesia. Of course the real Penrod finally turns up in New Mexico, gets locked up by the local sheriff, escapes from jail and hitches on home to spoil the pay day with help from Danny and the gang.

Somehow there's enough energy in these three Penrod films for them to be enjoyable, but they're about as complete nonsense as nonsense can get. What annoys most of all is that they pretend to be serious and clever and free of plot holes. That's the most nonsensical part of it all.

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