How to Be a Detective is a disjointed Robert Benchley miniature. He sets it up as a lecture on detecting practices and director Feist (and Benchley and his co-writers) miss the jokes. Towards the end, Feist mimics detective movie filmmaking techniques, which gives the short a boost, but it’s too little too late.
There simply aren’t enough good jokes and Detective drags out one’s set-up for over a minute. It’d be a decent gag if the viewer hadn’t been told to anticipate it for so long.
The final gag’s predictable too–and breaks the short’s narrative logic, which is otherwise pretty neat. Feist uses wipes to distinguish time change, but he keeps folding Detective in on itself. Makes for an interesting time.
Benchley’s fantastic (even he seems to realize the material isn’t the best) and keeps Detective amusing.
The great cameo from Dewey Robinson is an immense help.
Directed by Felix E. Feist; written by Robert Benchley, Robert Lees and Fredric I. Rinaldo; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Robert Benchley (Mr. Benchley), Arthur Hoyt (Worried citizen) and Dewey Robinson (McNulty).