Prompt Images

Coats were hung, chit-chat percolated, and within 20 minutes, our wives left to pick up Chinese food. Doug confirmed my suspicion that he was a fan of David Lynch’s work. Had he seen What Did Jack Do? While our wives went to retrieve dinner, we had time to watch the 17-minute piece and—bonus—not be bothered by my wife’s unreserved disdain for the movie.

I cued it up and tapped play.

What Did Jack Do? is filmmaker Lynch’s short, grainy, black-and-white sendup of ‘30s/‘40s crime movies, a farcical collection of clichés, ludicrous in the extreme. The two main characters—Lynch’s gumshoe detective, and Jack, a circumspect capuchin monkey—sling trite, inane, and disjointed tough-guy dialog at each other in a bleak train station diner. Lynch’s cop likes Jack for the murder of Max Clegg, Jack’s girlfriend’s lover.

Absurdity abounds in the offbeat wordplay of the police interview that strains credulity as nonsensical humor is disguised as high drama. Toototabon is Jack’s love interest, and the jealous Jack vomits disdain for the deceased Clegg, whom he claimed fucked his lovers “like there was no tomorrow and yesterday was gone.”

Following a torch song from Jack, we meet Toototabon, a white Leghorn chicken who scurries out of frame as Jack, in an ill-fitting suit and tie chases after her. Detective Lynch calls to the cops offscreen, “Get him, boys,” as one is left to marvel at 17 minutes invested in the depths of ridiculousness.

The film is short enough that it can be studied line by line, minute by minute, inviting dissertation-level analysis.

What Did Jack Do? is simultaneously preposterous and tight, filled with faux-witty repartee, uneven camera breaks, and technical details. Brilliance that marches toward genius oozes from the screen. Mental multi-tasking to reconcile the utter wackiness that is so incongruent with a plot worthy of the most hard-boiled, pulp fiction, cops-and-robbers tales is unnecessary.

The integration of silliness and seriousness is the point.

It is easy to laugh hard at the verbal jousting between a monkey and a man, appreciate the filmcraft, and imbibe the elements of genius disguised as spoof. Contemplating the brilliance leads to consideration of what defines genius. But, the Chinese food is here and contemplation has to end. Eat the egg rolls while they’re hot.


Dan Farkas

Dr. Daniel H. Farkas is a molecular pathologist who has published extensively and spoken on the topic internationally. Dan Farkas, on the other hand, is an itinerant New Yorker living just outside The D. His joys in life come from creative writing, photography, the music of his youth, his wife and kids, and sometimes the NY Rangers. #LGM

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more