Movie Review: The Great Gabbo (1929)

Synopsis: Gabbo is a talented but eccentric ventriloquist who is abusive to his caring and loyal assistant, Mary. When Mary finally has enough and leaves him, Gabbo continues on to become a big success. However, when they wind up in the same stage show two years later, he makes an effort to get her back, only to find out it is too late.

Who's in it? The movie stars Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Donald Douglas, Marjorie Kane and George Grandee.

Review: When I came across this film on Shudder last night, I assumed it would be a classic horror film and, since I always thought ventriloquist dummies were a bit creepy, I was interested in watching it. However, after seeing the movie, I can not only say it wasn't a horror film by any definition of the term, I couldn't even begin to tell you how it should be classified.

To be fair, the basic plot of the film wasn't too bad in theory. There really wasn't a whole lot to like about Gabbo (Stroheim), both because he was obsessed with his dummie (voiced by Grandee) and because the movie made it very clear he had an abusive temper. Yet, despite that, Mary (Compson) did seem to see past that and had very real feelings for him, even after she was happily married to another man. As a result, this might have made an OK love story had it been done right.

The problem is the film really never gives the main storyline a chance to develop into anything. Instead, roughly three-quarters of the movie is random song and dance numbers that have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and Mary/Gabbo's relationship is used more as a way to connect those random pieces together.

As a result of that, the movie just seems to drag on for an eternity and, by the time the whole relationship story starts to get good (with him finding out she's married and going off the deep end), the film is over. It wasn't even a good ending, just a very blah and dull scene that felt like it should have been somewhere around the middle of a good film. 

Final Opinion: If you like random song and dance numbers from the 1920s, there are some interesting ones in this film. However, if you watch the movie expecting it to have an entertaining plot, regardless of what genre you enjoy, this is going to be a disappointment for you. 

My Grade: D


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