For Reel

Earthworm Tractors (1936)
April 18, 2015, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ray Enright
3.5 Stars
Earthworm TractorsJoe E. Brown often played the incompetent but ever-persistent go-getter in his films for Warner Brothers in the early 1930s, but rarely did he accomplish it with quite the level of childish glee that he brings to Earthworm Tractors. His unpleasant hero in 6 Day Bike Rider played like an entirely unsympathetic take on Harold Loyd, but the small-town charm and misplaced confidence of this later picture is better calibrated and makes for a decidedly more enjoyable entertainment. The appeal of Brown’s pictures was often his unusual physiognomy, with critics reveling in pointing out the cavernous face of the rubber-faced comedian. By the mid-thirties, he exerted much more control over his facial ticks–he’s still a large performer, but his timing with mugging is much more satisfying than his earlier pictures like The Tenderfoot. The real enjoyment of the film comes from his play with the childlike fascination with destruction. Each setpiece involves Brown riding a tractor in reckless ways, whether that be by crushing other vehicles or by moving a house that people are still inhabiting. The film unfolds like a child bashing trucks together on a living room floor. As a sheer spectacle of chaos, Earthworm Tractors is one of Brown’s most memorable vehicles.

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