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Doctor Jack
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by Jay Seaver

"An enjoyable hour of silent comedy."
4 stars

The unconventional doctor is a popular character type because, if we're honest with ourselves, most MDs scare us. We see them when we're at our worst, and even the helpful ones scare us in ways that only people smarter than us who have information we need can. It's just as natural to be suspicious is such a situation as it is necessary to trust, which is the sort of paradox that births comedy naturally.

In this movie, the epitome of the doctor who uses his daunting acumen to intimidate his patients is D.r Ludwig von Saulsbourg (Eric Mayne), who has been treating anemic "Sick Little Well Girl" Mary (Mildred Price) for years even though, alas, she shows no sign of improvement. Her wealthy father (John T. Prince) despairs, but his lawyer (C. Norman Hammond) starts to become suspicious, especially after a return to his hometown at the behest of his mother's doctor. Mother is fine; the doctor has simply noted that she's depressed from not seeing her son often enough. The lawyer notes that a lot of the patients Harold "Dr. Jack" Jackson (Harold Lloyd) sees seem to have problems that can be resolved quickly and without medication, and asks him to take a look at his client's daughter.

Of course, he discovers that there's really nothing wrong with her - and, of course, that she's mischievous, sweet, pretty, and quite ready to get out of her sickbed. Saulsbourg, though, still has her father's ear and isn't about to let his gravy train go. So, Dr. Jack schemes to demonstrate her good health - by disguising himself as a maniac and chasing her (and the rest) around the house!

Dr. Jack is one of Lloyd's first feature-length films, using the term loosely - the film is only about an hour in length. It also feels different than some of his later material. The last act, for instance, is more door-slamming farce than the grand stuntwork Lloyd's films would later become known for. It's the kind of comedy finale where a group of people run through a house (which has on the order of four interconnected rooms), chasing, running from, and assaulting each other based upon cases of mistaken or deliberately concealed identity. It's a good one, too, even if it may go on a little too long - the point is to show that Mary needs and can handle excitement, which it manages rather quickly, but it serves its entertainment mission well enough that one is not inclined to point out what kind of overkill it is plot-wise.

In addition, The "glasses" character hasn't fully gelled yet, either - he's a little more manic and aggressive than later iterations would have the character. He's as quick as ever, but tends to have a more specific plan, rather than the usual knack for improvisation. A lot of what would make Harold Lloyd among the most most popular comedians of his era is on display: Great timing, the earnest belief that he can solve a problem that seems larger than his capabilities, the surprising athleticism, and the strong chemistry with his leading lady.

It's not surprising that Harold Lloyd & Mildred Davis work so well together on-screen; when this film was released in 1922, they were nearing the end of a long collaboration on-screen (four features and many shorts) and the beginning of an even longer one as husband and wife. They're believably sweet falling in love at first sight, and she's got an impish charm that comes through her weakness and frustration. Eric Mayne is an amusingly imperious and cowardly villain, a perfectly arrogant counterpoint to Harold's straightforward country doctor.

An hour-long "feature" is going to seem a little thin to today's audience, and to be honest, "Dr. Jack" is pretty thin. It is, however, better for a comedy to be thin than padded, and there's not much fat on this movie.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12465&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/09/05 10:59:38
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USA
  19-Dec-1922

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