Welcome Danger

Welcome Danger

Look, I wasn’t expecting anything good from Lloyd’s haphazard attempt to retroactively turn this silent feature into his first talkie. Hell, I was expecting it to be at least a bit clunky and rough around the edges, but boy was I not expecting something this dysfunctional and problematic. Instantly, everything that makes Lloyd’s screen persona such a force, and silent comedy such a timeless gem, is absolutely sapped from the picture. The mysticism and heightened reality provided by a silent film is completely gone once sound enters the picture, adding a level of realism that turns slapstick into brutal attacks. Nobody knows how to act in this, not even Lloyd. It’s all terribly written dialogue delivered slowly as if the actors are entirely tone deaf. There’s no rhyme or reason to the line delivery, and at its worst it sounds inhuman. This is especially evident in the dubbed sequences, where the lines don’t even match the lip movements of the actors. If you mute these sequences the jokes become instantly better, but still lack the magical touch of a perfect silent film score that you don’t think too much about until it’s gone. Even if this had been a silent film, it still wouldn’t have been good, though. Lloyd’s set pieces here are some of his worst, completely absent of the grand spectacles and well-orchestrated stunts that had defined his career up until that point. That’s all without even mentioning the handling of a Chinatown-centric plot with Chinese gangsters as the antogonists. That’s handled with all the tact you’d expect from 1920s comedy. Everything is surprisingly mean-spirited in the film, even Lloyd who had up until now perfected the devilish but good-hearted hero character. The use of violence may be forgivable considering that’s always been a facet of his characters, but the cruel and vicious dialogue aimed at every character, including the leading lady, is quite shocking and unappreciated. The best I can say is that I wasn’t ever angry at the film at least, just mostly cringing at how misguided and amateur the sloppy execution of everything is. Welcome Danger is a textbook example of the dreadful time silent stars had attempting to transition into sound, and a testament to what made silent films work so well, because absolutely none of it works here.