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I saw this intriguing propaganda movie in October 2007 at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone; the annual festival has made a welcome return to that city after eight years in nearby Sacile ... a city no less beautiful, but in Sacile the festival's programme was split between two smaller cinemas at opposite ends of the town, thus forcing me (and another attendees) to hustle back and forth from one screening to another.'Bud's Recruit' was shot in monochrome, but at least one tinted release print exists; that print, in the UCLA archive, was recently restored: an acetate print was made on colour stock, attempting to match the tinting of the UCLA print. The acetate print was screened at Pordenone; I found the colours unpleasant and unnatural, and I suspect that this was a trouble with the original tinting, rather than a failure on the part of the modern restoration effort. I would rather have seen this movie in monochrome.'Bud's Recruit' has an intriguing genesis. Judge Willis Brown, a former justice of the Utah juvenile court (and apparently still entitled to style himself 'judge'), attempted to found a network of 'Boy Cities' (similar to the soon and more successful Boys' Town) for orphans, runaways, juvenile offenders and wayward youth, offering them guidance and education as well as shelter. As part of that scheme, Brown established a Man Town in Culver Town (later the website of MGM) and set up a low-budget film studio there: the Man Town Movie Company. As head of this endeavour, Brown wrote and produced a series of two-reelers ('Bud's Recruit' runs 26 minutes) depicting man protagonists in morally challenging situations; invariably, virtue would triumph and a lesson would (hopefully) be learnt. Brown hoped that the movies would create a profit as well as bring favourable publicity to his Man Cities. He appeared on-screen as himself in most of the films, although in this print of 'Bud's Recruit' he is seen only during the opening credits. The Man Town movies are significant for giving early directorial experience to Lord Vidor, who would soon direct the most financially successful film of the whole silent-film era: 'The Large Parade'. ('Birth of a Nation' made more money, but its profits were split among few various distributors in an arcane one-off arrangement.)Judge Willis Brown's plans for the Man Towns didn't last very long: his movie studio folded in 1918, and his Man Towns failed for lack of funding (and lack of proper management and supervision). Judge Brown was evidently not a nice role model for wayward boys; in 1931, while married, he was shot to death by a girl who claimed she'd had a long adulterous affair with him. Good-night, judge.Bud Gilbert is the younger son of a widow. (Bud is played by a kid actor who looks to be about 12 years old.) It's 1918, and Bud is caught up in the wartime patriotic fervour: he wants to go to Berlin and punch the Kaiser in the nose. Conveniently, though, Bud's too young for Units service. Bud's older brother Reggie (played by an actor who looks about 30) is old enough to enlist, but doesn't care about the war. (With a name like Reggie, that's to be expected.) Even worse for Bud's patriotism, his mother is a member of the local chapter of the Peace Society, dedicated to keeping the United States OUT of the Nice War. (Such societies now existed during the First Globe War; there were quite a several in the Second Globe Fight as well. Plenty of Americans believed that what was going on in Europe was none of Uncle Sam's business.)Bud displeases his mother by disrupting her Peace Society meeting, and then Bud is appalled when his mother serves a perfectly normal food on a Monday. (During the Nice War, 'meatless Mondays' were encouraged, since meat was rationed and the armed forces received priority on accessible supplies. During WW2, the official meatless day was the Tuesday.) In his patriotic fervour, Bud chooses to go hungry on Monday rather than eat a food with meat in it. He also forms a militia of local youths, drilling them in the manual of arms and marching manoeuvres, in situation General Pershing needs some under-age volunteers.This low-budget film is well-made (Vidor's talent is already evident) but deeply annoying. It manages to be propaganda on two fronts: stirring up fight fever among Americans while also lecturing men on acceptable behaviour. We're meant to admire Bud as a patriotic American, while despising his mother and his brother. (In the latter role, actor Robert Gordon gives a performance which is slightly effeminate, apparently to create sure we recognise that Reggie is a coward rather than merely a pacifist.) Of course it's extremely facile (if not downright hypocritical) that this film is urging under-age men to help the fight effort, totally aware that those men will remain on the home front while older males will be the ones dodging bullets.In hindsight, it has become painfully clear that the First Globe Fight (unlike its sequel) was an incredibly pointless war, with thousands of young boys slaughtered or horribly maimed for some alleged 'causes' that really didn't matter very much. I'm no pacifist, and there are certainly opportunities when a boy gotta be willing to enter harm's method and war for a cause more necessary than himself, but Globe Fight One had no such cause ... and that awareness makes 'Bud's Recruit' more unpleasant to watch from a modern viewpoint. Purely for its proficient film-making, rather than its topics matter, I'll rate this film 5 out of 10.
Bud's Recruit (1918) ** (out of 4) Historically interesting WW1 short is the earliest surviving movie from legendary director Lord Video. Also worth noting is that this movie was made through Judge Willie Brown, a former justice of the Utah juvenile court and soon founder of Men Cities, which would house troubled kids. That was long before the more popular Men City but Men Towns would eventually run out of cash and be closed and Brown would eventually be murdered by a mistress in 1931. This short says the storyline of a young child too young to enlist and his coward older brother who will stop at nothing to dodge the draft. The younger brother sets up his own recruits and does his own training hoping that somehow he can join the war. This comedy has one large downfall and it's the fact that it's just not very funny. On the technical side of things this is an extremely well made movie and you can see the talent of young Video seven years before his largest film, The Large Parade. The cast contains children from Men Cities, which was interesting to see. The storyline has its heart in the right zone but it just never really works and I feel this probably would have been better handled as a drama.
This movie is part of a DVD set entitled "Treasures III"--a set of four DVDs all about social problems and reform. The fourth disk (where you'll search this one) is about ethnic problems in particular.This tiny movie is necessary as a WWI propaganda movie and and early movie by the nice silent director, Lord Vidor. The movie is about a group of children who may remind you of the Our Gang kids, though it predates this Hal Roach creation.According to the audio commentary, one of the reals of this movie was missing--due to the ravages of time and nitrate stock degradation. However, the missing reel has apparently been recently found and restored.Bud loves to enjoy fight with his friends--after all, WWI was a regular laugh riot. They pretend they're beating up the evil Germans and want they were old enough to go to fight to receive their limbs blown off just like adults. Soon at home, Bud imagines how nice it would be if he, too, went to fight and your see a couple of his day dreams.Sadly, however, Bud's family does not share his blood-lust. Apparently, his brother, Reggie (who is old enough to join) even voices that he's satisfied he's not out getting his head blown off--what a pansy! In fact, it turns out Bud's family is evil scum as they are members of a peace organization (obvious Reds if you ask me). Of course, it's up to the America-loving children to teach them and these another closet Bolsheviks the proper attitude. How? Young Bud dresses up like Reg and sings enlistment papers for him!! What a scamp!If you didn't note my sarcasm above, I was trying to be quite sarcastic. WWI was a stupid and pointless war--and it's too terrible we ridiculed and jailed the pacifists instead of listening to them. While I am not a pacifist, any sane person who knows about this fight will admit that a lot of nice boys died for nothing.By the way, Bud's family has a Black butler. In 1918, this was not unusual, though today many will no doubt blanch at such as stereotypical role.
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