Dolphy has taken up a fair share of my attention since I first started writing this blog, and not just because so much of his work falls so squarely within my chosen beat. The world of international genre cinema, I’ve learned, is rife with terrible comedy, and so it is that I can’t help but respond with deep gratitude to a comic performer like Dolphy, whom not only do I not hate, but I actually even “get” on some level. Any attempt on my part to pinpoint why that is would end up paraphrasing this paragraph from my review of James Batman, so I’m just going to include it verbatim:
For the most part, Dolphy’s scripted dialog is painfully unfunny, but what struck me as I watched James Batman is how he comes across as being a genuinely funny guy despite that. This is conveyed mostly through what appear to be throwaway bits of physical improv — such as when, as Batman, he follows a pre-crime-fighting snack by casually wiping his hands on Rubin’s cape — and by a genuinely quirky repertoire of mannerisms and physical gestures that make the most of his spindly frame and boney, thin-lipped countenance. I think that what really works for Dolphy is his somewhat sadsack, sour-faced demeanor, an aspect that not only serves to distance him from the goofy obviousness of the humor he’s perpetrating, but also provides a contrast to the type of desperate, googly-eyed antics so often seen in cinematic comic relief characters from this period.I’d also add that I found something deliciously subversive in Dolphy’s trademark parodies of iconic Western pop archetypes, especially given the traditionally heavy influence of American pop culture upon that of the Islands. In his mischievously irreverent takes on totems like Batman and James Bond, you get a sense of Dolphy wrestling with those figures to draw forth from them something that is both uniquely his own and also uniquely Filipino -- a rejection of their face value that comes across as at once delightfully bratty and subtly heroic.
Some reviews of Dolphy’s films for your perusal:
James Batman (at Teleport City)
Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six
Genghis Bond: Agent 1-2-3