One of the DVDs, Mickey’s Movies, also showcased a pair of non-McGuire shorts in Howling Hollywood (1928) and Shamrock Alley (1927); Alley stars child performer Malcolm Sebastian in the persona of “Big Boy,” a very well-received series produced by Educational Pictures (a studio that churned out mostly comedy shorts) from 1925 to 1929.
I was pretty underwhelmed by the material on the DVD. Most of the comedies were a bit boring, and both the title cards and gags fairly heavy-handed. Which was disappointing, because I had heard a lot of positive word-of-mouth on the shorts; many fans compared them favorably to the Hal Roach Our Gang comedies, taking special measures to admit that they certainly couldn’t match those classics but for an imitator they weren’t bad. My fellow classic movie bloggers are well aware that I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to kiddie thespians, but I’m convinced my problem with some of the Big Boy shorts is that young Malcolm often appears ready to burst out crying at any moment. (“If you don’t nail this shot, Malcolm, there’ll be no pudding for dessert. Oh, and we’ll shoot your dog.”) Sebastian got a lot better with maturity; there are moments in Shamrock Alley where he sort of reminded me of Jackie Coogan.
an Alpha Video DVD, released about the same time—I probably enjoyed Raisin’ Cain (1926) the best; Big Boy and his gang wreak havoc in a ritzy mansion after a doctor mistakenly diagnoses one of its inhabitants with smallpox. An individual who critiques this movie over at the IMDb asks: “Why would anyone look at nonsense like this when he could look at Our Gang?” While that may be a tad harsh, they’re not far from the mark on that one—there’s a “Little Rascals” comedy entitled Giants vs. Yanks (1922) with a similar plot. She’s a Boy (1927) is also not too bad, with our hero a young WWI orphan who assists some of “our boys” in fighting the deadly Hun (again, I was uncomfortable with a kid that age in that sort of milleu with ammo and bombs and the like). Good, Cain, Boy, and My Kid (1926) all feature organ scores from David Knudtson; the remaining shorts, In the Backyard (1926—not its original title, by the way) and Grandpa’s Boy (1927) highlight the work of composer Nee Dell Drop. (Grandpa’s also features some rather obtrusive sound effects that I could have done without. Neither Backyard nor Grandpa’s appears on the Alpha release.)