What seems like a surefire premise - a timid, henpecked man is accidentally hypnotized into a roaring lion of a man - falls curiously flat in RUNNING WILD, one of W. C. Fields last silent features. The typical elements of a Fields domestic comedy are all here, with the loving daughter, the horrible stepson, the haranguing second wife and the unappreciative boss all making appearances, but Fields character is too passive and the comedian is given little to do except cower in fear until the last third of the film. Later Fields characters such as Ambrose Wolfinger (THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE) and Harold Bissonette (IT'S A GIFT) may be similarly timid, but in those sound films, Fields could fill the soundtrack with whispered asides and passive-aggressive non-sequitors, verbally marking his territory. The silent Fields has no such luxury in RUNNING WILD, and it is simply not amusing to see him hounded and insulted by everybody he deals with throughout the film.
The climax doesn't work either. After Fields is accidentally hypnotized, he runs around town taking revenge on those who have wronged him, but in a nearly completely unfunny way. The limit is reached when he locks himself and his ingrate stepson in a closet and wallops the hell out of the boy with a leather strap. Sure, the kid is awfully annoying, but he certainly doesn't deserve the harsh beating Fields doles out here. Later obnoxious characters such as Claude in THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE and J. Frothingham Waterbury, get on the wrong side of Fields too, but the single knockout punches they get from Fields in the end are funnier and infinitely more satisfying.
Mary Brian, who played Fields' daughter in this film, would join Fields in his next film TWO FLAMING YOUTHS and would return as his daughter again in the sound era classic THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE, which could almost be viewed as a remake of, and a huge improvement over, RUNNING WILD. - JB