The circus is coming to town for one day only, a day when the
gang has to go to school. But Spanky has a plan: he's written a
doctor's note excusing them all from school the next day because of colds,
and he has Buckwheat and Porky place it on the teacher's desk at the end of
the afternoon so she'll see it first thing in the morning. Then they
learn that Miss Jones plans to take the class to the circus anyway! By
now the school is locked, and the note is already in its place, so the kids
return that night to break into the building and retrieve their letter.
Lightning, thunder, and darkness make the escapade a scary one, and by
staying out in the rain that night the four would-be truants find themselves
with real colds the next morning, keeping them from school, and the
Like the slick new top-grade features the Roach
plant was then introducing (including ghostly items such as Topper),
Spooky Hooky and most other one-reelers of this period share a brisk
pacing and surefooted sense of storytelling that makes them winners from
start to finish. Nothing is rushed, yet there is no time wasted:
the plot is presented and carried through with perfect timing.
Miss Jones is, as always, the perfect
schoolteacher: pretty, pleasant, and genuinely concerned about her
students. When Spanky and Alfalfa display their phony coughing and
sneezing symptoms as warnings that they may be sick the next day, she
reveals her surprise of planning to attend the circus and hopes they get
better so they can come, too. Thus the frustration of having hatched
this scheme needlessly is coupled with the notion of having tried to pull a
fast one on someone as nice as she.
The main concern of the four burglars that night
is spooks; Spanky takes a brave, no-nonsense stance on the matter ("I told
you once before, there ain't such things like spooks"), yet in the end he's
as frightened as the others at the possibility of a ghost or skeleton
creeping up behind them. On the other hand, Porky (with a crafty mind
behind that bland exterior), is so far removed from this that he pretends to
be a spook, to scare his friends, by donning a white sheet, carrying
around a noisemaker, and breaking light bulbs in a class lab room.
Buckwheat gets the biggest scares, having to
wait outside and act as lookout for the others. The darkness, a nearby
hoot owl, and the noisemaker Porky left behind all contribute to his growing
fright, prompting him to join the gang inside. A short time later, after
hiding behind a drapery, Buckwheat tiptoes back into the open and finds a
life-sized skeleton clinging to his back! By now the janitor has been
awakened and, at the sight of Buckwheat and the skeleton, he leaps through
the front door of the schoolhouse, followed by the kids, who have managed to
retrieve their note amid this ruckus.
Next morning, however, we see the results on a screen
split into four equal sections, with the same scene taking place in four
bedrooms: Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, and Porky are being given
cold remedy oil by their mothers, who intone in unison, "For the last
time, you can't go to school today!"
Although it has no real laugh-getting qualities,
Spooky Hooky is thoroughly engaging and enjoyable, easily one of the
best and most skillful
Our Gang one-reelers. Its possibilities are fully realized by
director Gordon douglas, and its soft-sell moral is abundantly clear:
even on a petty scale, crime doesn't pay.