I have been watching a lot of W.C. Fields. When it became time to see “It’s a Gift” I bought this massive box set with an estimated 20 W.C. Fields films. “The Bank Dick” is the last DVD to watch, so this could well be a summary of the career of Mr. Fields.
When you see this many W.C. Fields movies you will notice that he is always the same character with the same acts, gags and lines. I know it is his signature, but when the story is lame you become aware that you have seen all this a few times before and it stops being funny.
“The Bank Dick” is one of his better pictures, though by no means a master piece, and unless you really love W.C. Fields the best way to see it is by making it your first W.C. Fields picture. Then you will not get that tired feeling of being on repeat.
If I forget that I have seen it before it is actually funny. He is (as usual) a lazy, loud and harmless bum of a man with (as usual) a bitching wife, a hateful mother in law and disrespectful children. He likes his drink (as usual), tells wildly exaggerated stories (yeah yeah…) and his work and action are more likely to turn disaster than anything good. You know, good ol’ W.C. Fields.
The storyline is strangely disjointed. We get some family infight, Mr. Sousé (Fields) get hired as a director of a movie because the previous director is even drunker than Fields, Sousé then trips a bank robber and is rewarded with a job as bank detective. Coincidentally the bank where Sousé’s son in law to be, Og (Grady Sutton) is working. Just as Sousé has talked Og into “borrowing” some money from the bank for a dubious investment (Beefsteak mines shares) the bank examiner J Pinkerton Snoopington (Franklin Pangborn) shows up. Sousé now gets busy delaying the examiner for a good four days until Og can get his bonus. He does that with considerable skill, but Mr. Snoopington is a zealous examiner and will not be distracted from his work. In this moment of crisis the shares turn out to be good anyway (juhuu…) and the bank gets robbed again (bummer). The bank examiner is forgotten and now it is all about a wild car chase.
This entire, well, story is just a vehicle for W.C. Fields to launch into his monologues, to be rolled over by family, friends or bank robbers or just get a drink or 10. It is occasionally funny. Actually quite a few of the scenes are funny, but just as often I am moaning that this man really needs some new gags. The best part is when he has to distract the bank examiner and takes the drugged fellow back to his hotel in a state that closely resembles a serious bender. Remind me never to have a drink with that man.
Had this been my first Fields movie I would probably have laughed uproarishly from his general demeanor and very jaded attitude to for example the bank robber or his skill at getting himself in trouble or a drink or both. As such this is not a bad film. I am just a bit fed up with W.C. Fields.