Let’s All Kill Harold (2015)

+++ premise: Meek librarian Harold Nasty accidentally inherits a small mafia empire – and now he is desperately trying to get rid of it. But getting out of “da business” is easier said than done, and his path is lined with mistrust, missteps, and misunderstandings. +++

 

The film’s opening is reminiscent of 1960s sound effect comedies. And parts of the film are a pastiche of old mob films. But mostly, Let’s All Kill Harold is a solidly silly slap-stick piece successfully emulating the silly comedies of the 1970s and early ‘80s which I watched as a child.

 

You know how tricky these things are. You have to get the look and “the feel” right. As far as the look is concerned, everything pretty much fits. In my opinion, they nailed the clothing, the cars, even the hair – and to keep it in true ‘70s style, the picture has been made to appear deliberately grainy, with dust specks and everything, in order to make it look like a film from that era. Added to that is what seems to be a rather fitting 4:3 aspect ratio, which reminded me of the old TV-set on which I first saw these kind of comedies 30 years ago. Likewise, the score music is reminiscent of those old comedies, but at times also of old gangster/mob films.

 

The tone of the sillier of the 1970s comedies has also been captured perfectly in this film. Although I am not necessarily a fan of some of the painfully bad puns and silly running gags employed, one can hardly deny that the film’s creators Tom Devaney and Jim Skidmore have managed to recreate that kind of silly and slap-sticky humour with surprising precision.

 

And not only the tone fits but also the characters, all of them well-observed stereotypes. Some of these stereotypical characters are at one point or other talked about (or talking about themselves) on a meta- or quasimeta-level. In fact, there are quite a number of moments where humour is derived from employing a meta-element, starting right at the beginning, when a small child makes a reference to the scene’s piano accompaniment. And at least twice the lead character Harold (played by Michael Gough) breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience.

 

Another source of humour is the character of Sam (played by Jack Huber), a goon with a severe speech impediment, who cannot be understood by us, but who is understood by everyone else – similar to a Chewbacca/Groot scenario.

One element of humour I especially enjoyed was the at times excessive use of silly costumes. It is by no means the highlight of this film, or its most intelligent form of humour, but it took me back to the Inspector Clouseau films of my childhood.

 

Which brings me to a major caveat. First of all, you need to be ready to surrender yourself to this film’s silly tone and humour in order to enjoy it. Secondly, I assume that your age will play a role in your reception of this film. I enjoyed it so much because I saw all those silly comedies as a child in the early ‘80s, and I suspect the film’s silly and over-the-top humour might work much less for others.

Are there scenes in this film that are too wacky, too silly? Probably. But when a film is based entirely on very silly humour, it is difficult to start nit-picking and say “this scene was the right amount of over-the-top, but that bit was the wrong amount of over-the-top.”

If there was one thing I would criticise, it is the final scene with a speech by Harold. I found the scene rather weak, and I feel the film ended far too suddenly and abruptly.

 

The acting in this film falls into three categories: very good performances by some of the main cast, a lot of amateur performances by amateur actors in minor supporting roles, and a lot of over-the-top acting in between. But since the particular tone of the film requires a particular form of over-acting, especially in the stereotypical characters, it is very hard to tell the difference between bad acting and an actor delivering a deliberately trippy pastiche of a stereotypical ‘70s character. Some of the mobsters, or the minor supporting character of Colonel Pucki (played by writer Tom Devaney), are examples that come to mind.

But, as I said, the main cast is very good. I especially liked leading man Michael Gough (who looks like he is the love-child of Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton), and Al Ellington in a major supporting role as the sleazy lawyer.

 

The plot is convincing, as far as silly comedies go, and the writing is good. Everything else makes a rather good impression as well, considering this is a low-budget production; directing, camera work (though certainly not Oscar-worthy), sound, etc., everything is solid enough. I had some problems with the editing in a couple of scenes, but for me this is a negligible issue.

 

Let’s All Kill Harold’s humour reminded me a bit of 1984’s Top Secret!, while other aspects – as mentioned above – reminded me of the Inspector Clouseau films. This film is not something that could ever make its way into a regular cinema these days. And I would not for a second deny that there are more intelligent, more worthy, and more sophisticated comedies out there. But I think we all have a right to enjoy some real over-the-top silliness from time to time, and this labour of love is something that really fits the bill in that respect and deserves to be more widely known. It’s just – as I said before – that this is also a generational thing: You probably have to have spent your childhood watching films of this kind in order to be able to enjoy this one. But, like Inspector Clouseau films, I expect Let’s All Kill Harold will also be something that boys around 10 years of age and up might be able to enjoy.

 

The film is only 78 minutes long, so if you think that the particular tone and humour of this film might be the right thing for you, I recommend you give it a try. It seems that Jim Skidmore has made the film available via youtube.

 

Rating this film is difficult, because it is so different, and because it sets out to do a very specific thing. I guess most people would not give it more than 5 out of 10. But the precision and dedication with which it emulates the silly 70s/80s comedies it models itself after deserve a special recommendation way beyond and above that rating.

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