Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'll Give It a Teensy-Weensy Rating, Too: "The Terror of Tiny Town" (1938)

The year 1938 saw the premiere of a light hearted screwball comedy that failed in its initial release, but has grown in cinematic stature to achieve classic status. That film was "Bringing Up Baby." Oh, this film was also released in 1938, but I hated it inside of ninety seconds.

The plot is identical to all those old B-westerns from the 1930's, except its entire cast consists of midgets. The evil "terror," Hanes (Little Billy), is rustling cows (or in this case, calfs) and sets two of his ranch victims against each other. Lawson (John Bambury) and son Buck (Billy Curtis) square off against Preston (Bill Platt), while the do-nothing sheriff (Joseph Herbst)...er, does nothing. Nancy (Yvonne Moray), Preston's niece, arrives and begins meeting Buck on the sly. Hanes steps up his conspiracy as Lawson and Preston find out about their passionate progeny.

If you are going to make a western with an all midget cast, then you should really pull out all the stops. The art direction and set decoration are there, as all the little people ride very skittish ponies and walk under saloon doors. The town is full of teeny tiny townsfolk and bar "girls", the hero is handsome in his white hat, and the villain Hanes is hiss-worthy evil.

However, aside from a couple of puns about smallpox, and being a "big man" around town, this script could have been lifted from any of the hundreds of westerns Hollywood was cranking out at this time. Seeing a midget smoke a cigar and drink a beer loses its novelty after a few scenes, and the screenplay is less than enthralling. The acting is awful across the board. The songs all sound the same, and the recording is very difficult to understand.

"The Terror of Tiny Town" has "cult movie" written all over it. After hearing about it for years, I finally sat down and got it out of my system- and without a single midget joke! My, that's big of me, since this film is so short on entertainment. (*) out of five stars.