The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)

The Terror of Tiny Town
Director: Sam Newfield
Writer:Fred Myton, Clarence Marks
Cast: Billy Curtis, Yvonne Moray, ‘Little Billy’ Rhodes, Billy Platt, John T. Bambury, Joseph Herbst, Charles Becker, Nita Krebs, George Ministeri, Karl ‘Karchy’ Kosiczky, Fern Formica, William H. O’Docharty
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2017

The cattle of Buck Larson’s (Billy Curtis) family is disappearing. When he looks into this, he catches thieves in the act, but without being able to identify Bat Haines (‘Little Billy’ Rhodes) and his gang. Meanwhile, Bat makes sure to stir up more trouble by telling Buck’s neighbor Tex (Billy Platt) that the Larsons are to blame for his disappearing cattle. But Bat doesn’t want to limit himself to cattle – he has more plans.

The Terror of Tiny Town is an exercise in exploitation. It uses its actors – all of them, save one, dwarfs – as a gimmick and mostly makes fun of them.

There are two saving graces for the film. For one, it’s really short, only about an hour. And two, a penguin makes an unexpected and pretty awesome appearance. Those are the two things that I remember most positively about the film.

But other than that, I was mostly astonished – and not in a good way – at the blatancy of the exploitation and simple use that was made of the actors here. It starts with the movie’s introduction where the MC – the only able-bodied person in the film – tells us about the film and the two main actors – Curtis and Rhodes – tell the audience that they want to be the biggest stars, with emphasis on biggest.

And it doesn’t really get better from there. Instead the film seems to see its major point of existence in showing over and over again that even little people are adults and have lives of their own and fall in love and maybe even, gasp, have sex. And while it would have been quite an excellent thing to do if it had been done with respect, it’s done with so much condescension that it becomes pretty unbearable.

Added to that the sound of the copy they showed was pretty bad, which meant that the music really didn’t have a chance to shine, either and any possibility for charm was lost. At least there was the penguin. I guess that counts for something.

Summarizing: Maybe of historical value, but not much else.

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