|The East Side Kids use their wits... and big pieces of wood... to clobber some saboteurs in Flying Wild.|
The flick: Flying Wild (Monogram Pictures, 1941) [buy the set]
Current IMDb rating: 6.2
|Herbert Rawlinson, future star of Ed Wood's Jail Bait.|
Returning series regulars: Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Ernest "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, Dave O'Brien, Donald Haines, Eugene Francis (all in Boys of the City)
Additional series regulars: David Gorcey (Leo's kid brother; series regular from 1938-1958), Bobby Stone (series regular from 1942-1944)
Other actors of note: George Pembroke (Meet John Doe, Call Northside 777), Joan Barclay (Grand Hotel, 42nd Street), Herbert Rawlinson (Ed Wood's Jail Bait, plus Dark Victory, Follow the Fleet, much more)
|Leo Gorcey as Muggs|
|A cheapjack DVD release of the film.|
William West's filmmaking career was extremely brief and unimpressive, but Flying Wild is a respectable enough effort, given the cast, budget, and script. His direction, while flat and uninspired, doesn't get in the way of the jokes at least. But this movie is not much of a calling card for West either. It's a cheapo quickie production whose too-frequent aerial sequences consist of a lot of staticky stock footage along with some highly dubious model work. Meanwhile, actors on cheap sets which supposedly depict the interior of the plane, do their best to sell the illusion by lurching back and forth like crew members on Star Trek when the Enterprise was being attacked.
It's theoretically interesting to note that Flying Wild was released about nine months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America's subsequent entry into WWII. Having not been around in 1941, I can't rightly convey to you the mood of the country at that time. I suppose we felt that war might be just around the corner, hence all the talk in the script about patriotism and "the fifth column." But perhaps it was a mistake to have the East Side Kids be such obedient lackeys for the military-industrial complex. That undermines their status as cinematic rebels. Only Leo Gorcey's Muggs cannot be tamed, and I eventually came to appreciate him for that. But the maudlin subplot about Peewee, who sustains internal injuries while saving Muggs and Danny, is far too sappy for a comedy this dumb. If you want to be sentimental, you have to earn the right to do so. Flying Wild doesn't come close.
Is it funny: Well, that depends. Do you think it's funny when someone substitutes a similar-sounding word for the one he really means? If so, you might die laughing during the viewing of this film. Me, I chuckled politely once or twice out of respect to these departed actors who were giving it their all. But miraculously, several of the film's physical comedy bits do work fairly well and coaxed audible laughter from your humble reviewer. For example, the front fender of Mugg's jalopy falls off whenever he touches it, so he pulls his hand away from it and sits on the car's running board... causing the fender to fall off anyway. Okay, it's not Moliere, but what do you expect in an East Side Kids movie?
My grade: C
P.S. - In terms of racial stereotyping, Flying Wild is nearly as bad as Boys of the City, which makes it a contender for the most racist film in this entire series. In the first few minutes, I thought Ernest Morrison's character, Scruno, had been elevated in status somewhat and now was just another interchangeable East Side Kid like all the others. Uh, nope. The racial humor takes a while to build up, but one it gets started, it really gets out of control. When all the other Kids chase after a villain in one direction, for instance, Scruno tells us that he's running in the other. Muggs gets a black eye during a fight, and Scruno gets a "white eye," i.e. a big white circle painted around his eye. In another scene, Scruno adds 2 and 2 and gets 5. In another scene, Scruno sees Danny with black oil or dirt smeared on his face and says, ""Boy, you look just like my Uncle Rochester when he had the mumps." And so on and so on.