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Flying Luck

Undercrank Productions // Unrated // March 24, 2014
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted March 1, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

While the surviving output of the big three silent comedians, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, is well represented on home video, there are a lot of other talented silent stars who are woefully underrepresented. Case in point: Monty Banks. Though the comedian had his own production company and released several feature films starting in 1924, none of them have been available until Undercrank Productions released the 1927 film Flying Lucky. Featuring Jean Arthur (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) alongside Banks, the film is part situational comedy, part service-life parody, and part thrill picture. A decent romp, its arrival on DVD was long overdue.

Monty Banks plays "Monty" in this film, a man who idolizes Charles Lindbergh so much that he builds his own plane from scratch. With the help of a mail order correspondence course in how to fly, he bravely takes to the air... with disastrous results. His hopes of flying dashed, he's approached by an Army recruiter who promises him the sky and the moon if he'll join. "When a real pilot like you arrives at camp, they usually give him a new plane every day."

Having been told that the base commander is expecting him, and that a grand welcome has been planned, Monty is excited to start his training. Due to a misunderstanding, the Colonel mistakes Monty for a visiting VIP and does give him the red carpet treatment before realizing the mistake an assigning him to muck out the stalls from the rest of his time at the base.

Between the general unpleasantness of Army life, an overbearing staff Sergeant, and a budding romance with the Colonel's niece, Monty is kept on his toes until the big Army-Navy air competition... that's when the other enlisted men play a prank on the poor soul and convince him that's he's supposed to fly one of the plane to represent the Army.

Monty Banks does a good job in this film, it is funny, but it is a bit underwhelming. The gags are very well constructed throughout and the scene where Monty calls the Colonel to confirm that he's to fly in the air competition worked wonderfully, but the payoff always seems to be just slightly lacking, Even the big flying scene at the end doesn't quite work as well as it should. It's supposed to be thrilling, and Banks is up in a plane for part of it, but a lot of it looks like it was done at ground level on a sound stage (which it undoubtedly was) and that takes the nervous energy out of watching it. The situational comedy is also fine, but just a little bit forced where as the best comedy of this type feels natural.

Banks reminds me more than a little of Charlie Chase (which is a good thing), an everyday man who soon finds himself in a situation that he had not planned for. The problem is that Banks lacks Chase's pep and optimism that makes those shorts so fun. Here he is a bit dim, never questioning that the camp is going to throw him a parade with a brass band just for enlisting.

Having said all that, the film is still fun. Jean Arthur is beautiful and plays the Colonel's niece well, and Kewpie Morgan (Three Ages) is a great Sergeant, not only is he physically intimidating, but he's makes great faces when he's irritated. It's too bad that he always played the heavy and never received any roles that showcased his acting ability.

 The DVD:


Ben Model provides the audio accompaniment with a very nice organ score that he both composed and performed. The scene specific music adds a lot to the film, without ever being overbearing or unduly drawing attention to itself. There are some fun organ effects included (ringing bells and such) that make this a really enjoyable score. The sound quality is excellent, with no drop outs or other defects.


This rare film is sourced from a 35 mm print and looks fine for the most part. There is a very sort bit missing at one point, and some evidence of nitrate decomposition in a couple of places, but that is the exception rather that the rule. There is some print damage present, scratches and spots, but the movie is over 85 years old and minor imperfections are to be expected. The detail is good, though the lines are not quite as tight as they could be, and the contrast is very good. Overall this is a great looking movie.


Along with the feature there is some great newsreel footage of Charles Lindbergh and his historic flight across the Atlantic. All told Included is footage of his takeoff from Roosevelt Field on Long Island to his arrival in Paris and the reception he received there. His brief tour of Europe (Belgium and England), meeting various politicians and heads of state along the way, and his return to the US aboard the USS Memphis courtesy of the US Navy are chronicled as well. This is capped off with Lindbergh being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Coolidge and a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York. These newsreels bits are broken up into three parts, based on the company that originally produced the footage with reels by Kinograms, Pathe News, and William J. Ganz Co. featured. All told these run nearly 40 minutes.

This footage is accompanied by Ben Model on the piano. All in all a very nice look back at a historic event and an excellent bonus for this film.

Final Thoughts:

This was a good movie and the first Monty Banks silent feature to make it to home video. The print is good and the organ soundtrack and fantastic extras make this quite a disc. Fans of silent comedy should definitely pick this one up. Recommended.        
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