Up until now my experience of Victor McLaglen has been as a supporting actor usually in a John Wayne movie, so to watch him in the lead role in "Laughing at Life" was something new. Ironically it didn't end up feeling new because McLaglen's performance as Captain Easter strongly reminded me of Cary Grant both in the way he spoke and his charisma, the only different being physically. Now in a way that isn't a bad thing because the way McLaglen acts makes it fun as he delivers confidence and mischievous and lifts what now is a bit of a ropey movie.
Engineer Dennis P. McHale (Victor McLaglen) finds himself a wanted man as he is confronted by Inspector Mason (William 'Stage' Boyd) and is forced to abandon his wife and young son to go on the run, spending the next few years going from country to country moving on when ever Mason closes in on him. Whilst away he not only learns that his wife dies but changes his name becoming Captain Easter when he ends up serving during WWI which leads to him being caught although prison can't keep him. Ending up in Venezuela in charge of smuggling in guns for a revolutionary not only does he discover that he is being double crossed but he also discovers his son could be about to make a decision which will lead to him making the same mistakes as he did.
The version of "Laughing at Life" I watched lasted 61 minutes, it is the version which can be found in the public domain where it is free and legal to watch although there is a 71 minutes version. Now I don't know what is in those missing 10 minutes but I don't suppose for a minute they add much to the movie because we are talking a very simple movie. The first 20 minutes of the movie is basically McHale staying one step ahead of Mason who follows him around the globe in his attempt to arrest him and the second half is all about the drama in Venezuela. The first half isn't bad even though it lacks flow and it is McLaglen's cheekiness as he escapes Mason when ever he gets close which makes it fun despite limited action.
That element of fun and cheekiness is as big a part in the second half but here we also have a bit more story as we McHale now known as Captain Easter smuggling in guns for a revolutionary and discovering he is being double crossed, not just by the revolutionary but also jealous women. Plus we have Easter discovering who is estranged son is and that he is about to make the same mistakes as he did. Again it doesn't have much flow and in truth not much story but it is still strangely entertaining in a bitty, limited action sort of way.
What is for sure is that despite a collection of OTT characters from Conchita Montenegro as the jealous Panchita to the larger than life Mathilde Comont as Mamacita "Laughing at Life" is all about Victor McLaglen. Now as already mentioned there is something a bit Cary Grant about the way McLaglen plays Hale/ Easter and it is that sort of cheekiness which makes it fun.
What this all boils down to is that "Laughing at Life" is not a great movie but thanks to a fun performance from Victor McLaglen it is entertaining and at just over 60 minutes moves very quickly.