This is a rare 4 reel L&H comedy 'short', being somewhere between most shorts and Feature films, in length(37 min.) It's reported by one reviewer to be Producer Hal Roach's favorite L&H film. I don't see it being in an exclusive category, but the story is scripted to be in an exotic location., and it does have its share of slapstick, sight humor, verbal humor and ironies. I've enjoyed it quite a few times over the years.......First, I will relate some relevant historical and geographical background.........What does the title mean? Back around the turn of the 19th century, it literally meant a handsome man from Bohemia, or central Europe.. An alternative spelling is bohunk. In more general usage, it simply means a handsome, muscular or desirable man. In fact, today, we usually shorten it to 'a hunk'..........I suspect the 1926 silent film "Beau Geste"(redone in 1939) had some influence on choosing the title, as well as the Foreign Legion theme of most of the film. That story takes place in Algeria, whereas the present story clearly takes place in Morocco, as does the 1929 musical "The Desert Song". Both these films involve the Riff Berbers(not Arabs). In the earlier film,they are the 'good guys', whereas in the present film they are the 'bad guys' Although both films present the Riffs as a desert tribe, in fact they are named for their mountainous homeland in the Riff range, near the Mediterranean........Getting onto the screenplay particulars, we begin with Ollie singing his heart out "I Love You" to the picture of his fiancé, with the nickname Jeanie Weenie(who has a striking resemblance to Jean Harlow, who had bit parts in several of their previous shorts).This picture will resurface several more times. Unfortunately, Ollie gets a letter from her saying she now loves another, so call off the wedding. Stan is also present. Ollie tells him "We're going where we can forget" "What do you mean 'we' " responds Stan. Ollie doesn't give a detailed rational. After an exciting bit of physical humor, on Ollie's part, we next see them as Foreign Legion recruits: "an army of forgotten souls", as the commandant admits.........When the boys are getting used to their bunk quarters, they notice that 2 others are looking at a photo and shaking their heads. Upon closer inspection, both the photos are of Jeanie Weenie! She gets around!. So, the boys tell the commandant they want to quit the Legion, because they now realize that the woman they came to forget isn't worth the trouble. But, the commandant basically tells them that they are in the Legion for life, like it or not!.......A scout arrives, in a hurry. The Riffs are planning an attack upon Fort Arid, which needs as many reinforcements as can be spared. This includes Ollie and Stan, who take up the rear position of a 2 column march. We wonder why Ollie is carrying a backpack even bigger than the other soldiers, except Stan, who has just a little pack. Later, Stan admits that he put most of his stuff in Ollie's pack. When they arrive at the fort, we see that they have switched backpacks, no doubt at Ollie's insistence! In the meanwhile, the boys get separated from the unit twice, the second time during a sandstorm. Despite our seeing that they are marching in circle, they somehow get to the fort well before the others, who presumably got lost......
The Riff attack . The fort commander tells his men to throw hand grenades. The boys empty a box of grenades on the ground, in front of the gate. Ollie throws one over the wall and it explodes. Stan throws the pin over the gate, and drops the explosives in the pile of grenades on the ground. They frantically search for the one ringing like an alarm clock, and find it in time to through over the wall..........Later, they are chased by a Riff into a store room, where Ollie knocks over a barrel of thumbtacks, of all things. The Riff, not wearing sandals, begins to howl and dance, and leaves. The boys find 2 more barrels of tacks(why are they here?), and spread the tacks all around the fort door. Just then, the Riffs break through the fort door, and dance and howl when they get in. Now, the main body of Legionaries arrives, to mop up. The boys are heroes. A good thing most of the Riff weren't waring sandles! The boys bring the Riff chief forward, and are told to disarm him. They find a couple of wicked knives. Then, they find something unexpected, which the chief pleads to let him keep. Can you guess what it is? Yep, but just to be sure, you can see the film at YouTube.
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