Running Wild [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (9th March 2018).
The Film

Timid toy company accountant Elmer Finch (Fields) is thoroughly henpecked by his domineering second wife (The Thirteenth Chair's Marie Shotwell) who lords the reputation of her first husband of "real man" over him. Elmer's only pleasant reminder of his first marriage is his daughter Elizabeth (Charlie Chan in Paris's Mary Brian), but both father and daughter are at the constant beck and call of his second wife and her "delicate" son Junior (Barnett Raskin) and must eat in the kitchen while mother, son, and dog eat in the dining room with a portrait of her first husband. Elizabeth is being romanced by Dave Harvey (Fascinating Youth's Claude Buchanan), son of Elmer's boss and Elmer has promised her a new dress for the Lion's Club ball. When her stepmother objects, referring to her finery and Junior's clothes as wrags and badgering Dave into convincing his father to give Elmer a raise, Elmer is too timid to stand up to her and even Elizabeth starts to lose all respect for her father. At work, Elmer is no more respected by company president D.W. Harvey (One Way Passage's Frederick Burton) who is planning on firing him when his son asks him to give Elmer a raise and announces that he plans to marry Elizabeth. When Elmer asks for a raise under the misapprehension from Dave that his father is favorable of the idea, Harvey hits upon the idea of offering a raise on the condition that he collects an outstanding bill from competitor Amos Barker (Frank Evans) who has a habit of bullying and beating up bill collectors, the latest being on of their own. After being thrown out of Barker's office, he plans to try again for Elizabeth's sake and makes a wish on a horseshoe he finds in the street. When he accidentally shatters the window of a florist when he tosses it over his shoulder, he flees the scene with the enraged florist on his tail and ends up on the stage of the Lion's Club entertainment just as hypnotist Arvo (Tangled Trails' Edward Roseman) is asking for volunteers. Hypnotized and told that he is now a lion, Elmer demonstrates for the audience the principle of mind over matter by boxing the ears of a brute who has been hypnotized to believe that he is Little Lord Fauntleroy. Elmer takes off before he can be snapped out of his trance and, still believing that he is a lion, takes to the town to settle scores with those who have abused him before going home to straighten some things out.

“Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad,” is one of W.C. Fields's famous sayings, and he illustrates his reasoning behind this in Running Wild, his fourth film under his contract with Paramount. A much more conventional and breezy effort than his first star effort It's the Old Army Game – also making its digital debut this month from Kino Lorber – the comic set-pieces are better integrated with the story this time around. The latter half of the film is consistently hilarious as Fields both runs around town and does boxing feints around bewildered victims, crashes the tea party his wife has given for the wives of the Lion's Club of which Elmer is not member, and finally gives Junior a good hiding. As horrible as the various characters are who abuse Elmer, writer/director Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey) holds on Fields' pensive face at times early on in the silences when he's not being harangued by his wife, stepson, dog, daughter, or boss to convey his "timid soul" (the working title of film) and it makes Elmer more of a character here than just a Fields persona which was sometimes more difficult in his sound era productions.

Video

Mastered in 2K from 35mm elements perserved at the Library of Congress, Running Wild is also one of the better looking restorations of Paramount silents that has become available on home video lately. The black and white image is clean and largely free of any damage beyond the usual light scratches and spots with only the stage sequence with Arvo the hypnotist looking in worse condition with higher contrast and bleached whites. One or two intertitles and cards on the opening credits may have been digitally recreated.

Audio

The film is accompanied by a new piano score by Donald Sosin that keeps in sync even with the rapid footwork of Fields' morning workout turned dance routine.

Extras

The only extra is an audio commentary by film historian James L. Niebaur who notes that Running Wild was one of the few Fields silents that was widely available when Paramount released it on VHS in the eighties to mark their seventy-fifth anniversary. He also contrasts the convetions of Fields' sound and silent films, once again expressing surprise at Fields' talent for physical comedy, which is appropriate here since he notes that the was remade in 1935 as a talkie under the title Man on the Flying Trapeze in which Brian played the same role as his daughter.

Overall

 


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