Thursday, December 27, 2012

On Video: General Spanky (1936)

Hal Roach's Our Gang, aka the Little Rascals, starred in just one feature film during the glory years, but to say that the whole gang was involved would be lying.

George "Spanky" McFarland headlines "General Spanky", but the only other Rascals featured are Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer & Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas. It's kind of a cheat, isn't it?

I wish I could pull up a clip and post it off YouTube, but there are none to be had, so let's get on with the story.

The movie is set during the Civil War. Buckwheat is one of the youngest, if not the, youngest slaves in history. Spanky's a shoeshine boy, and we don't see Alfalfa until the second half of the picture. Spanky & Buckwheat meet on a riverboat, where 'Wheat just can't seem to stay out of mischief (nothing new). The boys eventually dive off the boat and swim to shore, and eventually Spanky reunites with an adult benefactor he met on the boat. Said benefactor takes the boys in, and when Spanky learns about the war, he decides to form his own juvenile army, which is where Alfalfa enters the picture. When the benefactor is arrested as a "spy" by a jealous, power-mad officer, Spanky takes action to help his new friend.

As much as I watched the classic shorts as a teenager, I found "General Spanky" to be lacking, largely because you only had three Gang members present, at least the ones I was familiar with. This was just a means for Roach to get the kids into a feature film, as his other franchise, Laurel & Hardy, had graduated to feature films by this point. Unfortunately, it just didn't work, and the kids never got another chance.

Rating: C.

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