Laurel & Hardy
Film Length: 160 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (1.33:1)
Audio: DD 1.0 Mono, 2.0 Mono
Hollywood has thrown many comic duos at us throughout the years but Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy are probably the most known and recognizable. Although there were many duos, Laurel and Hardy had something very unique, which shines through decades later making them perhaps the most recognized figures next to Charlie Chaplin. Even if you haven’t seen one of their films or shorts, the image of the skinny Laurel and chubby Hardy can still make you smile.
For the past six plus years of DVD, fans of the comic duo have been begging and pleading with Artisan to release some of their shorts onto the format. Most of the time these demands were answered with “maybe next year” but the studio has finally came through and along with Hallmark, August 19th will see the duo on DVD with the feature-length Sons of the Desert along with four bonus shorts.
Sons of the Desert
Lifelong buddies Stanley and Hardy live side-by-side and pretty much do everything together. One of their many habits is a club known as “Sons of the Desert”. While at the club one night the boys are sworn by oath that they’ll attend a conference in Chicago the following week. The boys agree to the oath but Stanley is worried that his wife won’t let him go. Hardy, being the man that he is, tells his friend to become the man of the house and not ask his wife but tell her that he’s going. As it turns out, Hardy’s wife won’t let him go either so he fakes a nervous breakdown. By doing this, the boy’s say they are going to Hawaii for medical treatment but they head off for Chicago. Soon the wives learn of their lie and go after them.
The due is best known for their shorts mainly because the feature films weren’t ever that good. There are some decent ones but most of the features don’t capture the charm of the shorts. Sons of the Desert is considered their best feature film and I’m pretty sure most would agree. The film is a wonderful delight running just over an hour the film pretty much packs the comedy in at every turn. Classic moments include a wonderful introduction to the boys and a hilarious scene with a boiling pan of water. While the sight gags are plenty we are also treated to a wonderful screenplay, which gives the boys a story to work with along with some classic lines.
The Music Box, winner of the 1932 Academy Award for Best Short Subject Comedy, features our boys trying to move a large piano up a huge flight of stairs. With their backs not strong enough to carry it and with people constantly getting into their way, this little job turns out to be a lot harder than planned. Another Fine Mess has the boy’s running from a cop and they take shelter in an abandoned mansion, which just happens to belong to a big game hunter. All seems fine until the hunter returns home and realizes that Hardy has taken his identity and house. County Hospital finds Hardy in the hospital with a broken leg so naturally his best friend Laurel comes to visit. This turns to disaster with bodies hanging out windows and Hardy being injected with a sedative. Busy Bodies features the boys at a woodshop where they make a mess of each other and anyone who gets in their way.
The Music Box is considered by many fans to be the duos best short and I certainly won’t argue with them, although it’s not my personal favorite. We are treated to hilarious sight gags including a brilliant scene where Hardy is ran over by the piano. Another classic moment is right at the start when Hardy decides to use his back to carry the piano. Another Fine Mess is very good, although I don’t consider it one of their best. The short is highly watch able but at the end we really don’t laugh too much. The rolling curtain is the highlight here. Busy Bodies is another huge favorite amongst fans probably because of all the physical work done by the duo. We get various site gangs, some hilarious and others beyond hilarious. Finally there’s Country Hospital, which is my personal favorite episode. While this is the most childish of their shorts, the humor is in the right place and we get a wonderful scene with a certain somebody hanging out a window.
VIDEO---The feature and four shorts are shown full frame (1.33:1), which is the correct ratio. Sons has always looked pretty poor but this new transfer is certainly the best I’ve seen. There are still many problems like small speckles and some scratches but the image is pretty steady throughout. Previous versions were full of dirt, which is thankfully missing here. The four shorts all look better than previous versions but again, they are far from flawless. Speckles and scratches are on the prints but the black and whites certainly look better than before.
AUDIO---You get the choice of the original 1-Channel Mono and a new 2.0 Mono track. I really have no idea what this 2.0 track is supposed to be but I suggest sticking to the original. The 2.0 track has all the dialogue sounding as if it is being spoken in a large hall, which causes echoes that just doesn’t sound like it should. On the audio menu page there’s a small warning about the sound mix so we’re pretty much told what to expect. I was a little disappointed that the audio hadn’t been clean up much, if any. The feature and shorts are full of hiss in the background, which at times is very loud. Another problem, especially on the shorts are some loud cracks and pops, which are somewhat distracting. If this is the best track possible then fine but I believe a little more work could have been done.
EXTRAS---We start off with some well written bios of Laurel, Hardy and Hal Roach. Up next is a Location Tour, which shows what the studios looked like back then and what they look like today. Pretty boring stuff. Next is a photo montage, which shows stills from the feature film and shorts. Again, pretty boring. Next up is a text interview from 1987 with Hal Roach. This here is rather short but the interview is pretty interesting. It’s funny hearing what he has to say about Chaplin. Finally we get a 10-minute tribute called “Kings of Laughter”. This here features many clips from their films and a few interviews. It’s narrated by Leonard Maltin and is mildly enjoyable, although we really don’t learn anything other than the fact that L&H were funny.
OVERALL---Fans have waited awhile for L&H to hit DVD and I think they’ll be happy. The feature film is certainly their best and the shorts are a good selection to start off with. The video quality is the best I’ve seen the films look but don’t expect some Citizen Kane like transfer. The audio on the other hand is a little bothersome and it appears no work was done on it. We get a new 2.0 track but I find this pretty bad. The small amount of extras are pretty worthless as well but it’s the films that count and that’s enough of a reason to buy this set.
Release Date: August 19th, 2003