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Film / Strikes and Spares

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Bowling meets Fanservice

Strikes and Spares is a 1934 short film (ten minutes) directed by Felix E. Feist.

It is one of many short films produced by Pete Smith for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer throughout the studio era. This one is about a professional bowler named Andy Varipapa. Varipapa was known, in 1934 and for decades after, not just for his bowling prowess but specifically for his ability to make trick shots. This film starts out as a general bowling instructional manual, showing in a few minutes how to plant your feet, how to roll the ball straight, and how to make it curve.

That part is followed by a longer sequence in which Varipapa demonstrates all kinds of trick shots. Rolling a ball that makes an S curve in the lane, avoiding two pins... rolling a ball through a line of chorus girls... rolling a ball that can knock the 10 pin into the next lane to knock down another 10 pin... if the human mind can think of a bowling stunt, Andy Varipapa can do it. Contrasted with Varipapa's superhuman bowling skills is a second character, a bumbling oaf who can't manage to roll a ball without falling down.


  • Between My Legs: At the beginning of the short there's a Fanservice shot of a woman's bare calves as she bowls a strike. Then there's a shot of Andy Varipapa (he's wearing long pants) as he pulls off a 1-7-10 split.
  • Bowling for Ratings: Andy Varipapa shows off his skills.
  • Documentary: Andy Varipapa demonstrates his phenomenal skill with a bowling ball. The first part of the film shows Andy Varipapa demonstrating good bowling form—how to grip the ball, how to make it spin, good footwork. There's even a silhouette against a black screen showing good form in bowling the ball. Then the second part of the film moves on to Varipapa doing a number of increasingly insane trick bowling shots.
  • Dodgy Toupee: The hopelessly awful bowler is fussing with his hair basically every time the camera cuts to him. Finally, after one attempt where his feet fly out from under him as he bowls the ball, his toupee flies off his head, revealing him as totally bald.
  • Fanservice Extra: Lampshaded by Smith. A line of women in business dress (blouse, coat, skirt) pose in the bowling lane. Smith wonders how to make it more interesting. Then with a Jump Cut we see the same line of women, but now they're in halter tops and hot pants. Varipapa still manages to roll the ball through their legs.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipe: For the shot where the girls in dresses cut to girls in halter tops and hot pants, the camera spins a full 360 degrees.
  • Narrator: As always through the Pete Smith catalogue, Pete Smith provides sarcastic commentary.
  • Overcrank: Slow motion is used for more than one shot, like when Varipapa, before getting into his trick shots, demonstrates proper form for bowling a ball.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: In one lane, Andy Varipapa, who can warp time and space with a bowling ball. In the other lane, an unnamed little gnome of a man, who falls down when he tries to bowl the ball, and also manages to get his fingers stuck in the holes.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Some racist humor with the man retrieving the pins, who grins and goggles in a very Stepin Fetchit manner. Smith in his narration calls the pin boy "Sunshine".