Alf’s Button Afloat (1938)

Article 2010 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-15-2006
Posting Date: 2-12-2007
Directed by Marcel Varnel
Featuring Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo

Six men are hoodwinked into joining the marines, but one of them discovers the button on his jacket is actually (through the miracle of recycling) Aladdin’s lamp, and that he has control of the genie. Hilarity ensues.

This is only the second movie I’ve seen featuring a British congregation of comedians known as “The Crazy Gang”, the other being LIFE IS A CIRCUS. I don’t know much about them, but I’m not particularly impressed with their comedy. Maybe it’s just too British, though I don’t have the same problem with Monty Python. In truth, though, I think their slapstick antics, energetic though they are, are uninspired, not particularly well thought out, and repetitive. Part of the problem is that the six characters really aren’t very well differentiated, and they come across most of the time as if all of them are trying to be funny at once, without anything in the way of teamwork, comic give-and-take, or real chemistry, and they fail to establish themselves as distinct personalities. I think this is crucial to slapstick comedy; think of how you can always tell apart the individual characters in Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges, and you’ll see what I’m getting at. As a result, it’s no surprise that the best moments here are individual gags (Alf’s three-word comment when he first meets the genie, which is then interpreted as a wish is the best moment here) or the ones that feature the best delineated character, the genie as played by Alastair Sim, and he’s not even a member of the gang. Apparently, this was based on a play by W.A. Darlington, who wrote several about Alf Higgins, some of which were converted into movies.



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