Based on a series of books by Pulitzer Prize winner Booth
Tarkington (he won two, for The
Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams),
Penrod and Sam is a delightful series of vignettes involving the
of two rambunctious boys living in Middle America. The film is reminiscent of the Our
Gang comedy shorts that Hal Roach
was releasing at the same time, and fans of those shorts should make
to track this film down.
It seems that Penrod (Leon Janney) and his best friend Sam (Frank
Coghlan Jr., Billy Batson in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial)
always getting into some sort of trouble, especially Penrod. He's kept after school most days for some
infraction, and even at home he gets sent to his room for fighting with
Penrod is also the leader of a local club that meets in a
shack on an otherwise empty lot. Most of
the neighborhood boys belong to it, with the exception of the George
Bassett. George spends his time kissing
up to the teacher at school and buffing his nails, and doesn't fit in
rest of the rumble-tumble boys. After
the unanimously reject his application, George complains to his mother
Pitts) who berates Penrod's parents until they force him to admit the
youth. It would have been better all
around if George had just accepted their rejection.
This is a charming and funny film that has a lot in common
with the Our Gang short. Penrod's group
(including two African-American members) get in and out of trouble, put
show, fight, laugh, and generally act like kids. The
story is simple, but it's still very
One of the best, and most hilarious, scenes revolves around
Penrod's homework. He has to write a
letter to a friend for school, and though he gets the first two words
paper, he gets distracted and plays with his dogâ€¦ only to realize the
morning that he's messed up again. When
he hears his sister say that she's just finished up a letter, Penrod
figuring that's an easy way to get out of trouble.
The only problem is that the teacher asks him
to read his work to the class, and it turns out to be a love letter. He's mortified as he reads the letter, asking
his â€˜friend' if he really thinks he's beautiful. He's
interrupted by the laughter of the
class, naturally, but the teacher continually prompts him to continue.
The main complaint is that the movie does slow down a bit in
the last third, with a dramatic event slowing the pace of the film and
the comedy to a halt, at least for a little bit. It
does pick up at the very end, and
concludes on a high note.
The film was directed by William Beaudine, the very prolific
director who directed Mary Pickford in the silent days and made an
version of Penrod and Sam in
1923. He does an admirable job,
especially since he was mainly working with child actors, and the film
effective. It's has a more polished look
than the similar material that was being released by Roach, and that
movie work all the better.
The mono soundtrack is provided and it sounds fine.
There's nothing really exceptionally good or
bad about it.
The full frame image looks very good. These
movies haven't been restored but they
come from very nice prints with minimal damage.
Yeah, there are occasional spots or flecks of dirt, but they're
infrequent. The contrast is good and so
is the level of detail.
There isn't any bonus material.
A fun and funny look at boys being boys in the early 20th
Century; this film is a great find. Fans
of Hal Roach's Our Gang Comedies will really enjoy this movie. It gets a strong Recommendation.