It’s time to answer one of cinema’s burning questions: Who the heck are Biffle & Shooster?
The raucous duo are apparently the brainchild of Hollywood producer Michael Schlesinger, who at some point must have decided he wanted to represent a comedy team from Hollywood’s Golden Age, even though Schlesinger himself wasn’t born until 1950. Thus were borne Benny Biffle (Nick Santa Maria) and Sam Shooster (Will Ryan), two crazies who owe more than a bit of their existence to Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, and probably any other double-act you can name from the post-vaudeville era.
The Adventures of Biffle & Shooster is a collection of comedy short subjects that the team supposedly filmed in the 1930’s. Schlesinger and his troupe have gone miles beyond the call of duty to give these shorts the look and feel of 1930’s programmers, complete with black-and-white cinematography (except for one short filmed in Cinecolor, the poor man’s version of 1930’s Technicolor), and old-fashioned wipes and fade-outs, as well as authentic-looking “bumpers” including B&S making a plea for the Will Rogers Institute. Also, ’30s movie buffs will be delighted by the countless inside jokes provided in the shorts.
The plotlines certainly feel 1930’s-ish enough. They don’t miss a single comedy trope of the times: comic murder mystery (“The Biffle Murder Case”); haunted mansion with crazy scientist (“Bride of Finklestein”); musical revue extravaganza (“Schmo Boat”); and finally, husband unexpectedly brings boss home for dinner, wife leaves husband in the lurch, and his partner dresses in drag to save the day (a triple-header in “Imitation of Wife”).
All of this is put over most effectively by a very eager-to-please cast that is in on the jokes, not the least of which are the two leads. Will Ryan is a most effective straight man (and charming musician, in several gratuitous musical numbers). And Nick Santa Maria, as the situation calls for, mugs gleefully in a style not seen since the salad days of Jerry Lewis.
Anyone who has ever wished that comedy would return to the old days when comedians actually worked to get a laugh will bask in this nostalgic piece of hilarity. And I can’t help but think that kids will be laughing themselves silly at these shorts, which could provide their film-buff parents with a pipeline to introduce their kiddies to the style of old-fashioned comedy.
(Oh, and be sure to look for the surprise appearances from acclaimed actor Robert Forster, and a very funny two-line bit from “cult” character actor Dick Miller.)
The Adventures of Biff & Shooster is available for rental on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV. Spring for the rental, bub — you’ll thank me later.