Get ready for “Sick Day Stash” to take on a whole new meaning. Decades before Robert Altman’s “MASH,” more than half a century ahead of Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” and more than 75 years before “Kid Nation,” one short Shirley Temple comedy thumbed its nose at the violent front lines of World War I, leaving a bizarre relic from its time that wedged child actors into hilariously unsettling adult roles.
Clocking in at under ten minutes, Charles Lamont’s 1932 film “War Babies” may be one of the most hilarious films you never knew existed, even if much of the humor erupts for all the wrong reasons. Its quick series of gag shots follows a toddler platoon of U.S. soldiers who visit a French tavern called Buttermilk Pete’s Café. Since all of the soldiers are kids, the bar only serves milk, but that doesn’t stop the film from using Shirley Temple’s burlesque-dancing character in ludicrously disturbing and suggestive ways both on and off camera.
Scenes include, but are not limited to, two tot-soldiers vying for her French affection as they gulp down milk pints and offer her lollipops, followed by a total “what the?!” moment when the winner emerges from her room at the bar’s rear toting a safety pin pulled from Temple’s diaper. Those shockers aside, everything from the band’s antics in the back corner, to Temple’s artificially sped-up dancing and the milk-aholic baby drinking from a barrel like a cow udder still holds up today with its comic timing.
“War Babies” is a hybrid of classic slapstick comedy, historical insight into the things Hollywood once got away with using child actors that could never be used in front of audiences today, and even a healthy dose of oddball imagery that would make surrealist filmmakers like Salvador Dalí or Luis Buñuel gasp with its use of milk. Every repeat viewing is guaranteed to reveal either something completely hysterical or utterly appalling.
Check out “War Babies” in full below, then tell us about some of your Sick Day Stash flicks!