DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Laurel and Hardy Gift Set - The Big Noise, Great Guns and Jitterbugs

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Apr 15, 2006.

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  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    LAUREL & HARDY
    CINEMA CLASSICS COLLECTION

    THE BIG NOISE
    GREAT GUNS
    JITTERBUGS


    [​IMG]
    Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Film Year/Length:[*]The Big Noise (1944) 74 minutes[*]Great Guns (1941) 74 minutes[*]Jitterbugs (1943) 75 minutes
    Genre: Comedy

    Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.33:1

    Colour/B&W: B&W

    Audio:[*] English [​IMG] [​IMG] 2.0 mono
    [*]English [​IMG] [​IMG] 2.0 stereo

    Subtitles: English & Spanish
    Film Rating: Not Rated


    [​IMG] [​IMG]






    Release Date: April 11, 2006.


    Box Set Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Harley
    Also Starring: Vivian Blaine, Robert Bailey, Arthur Space, Doris Merrick, Sheila Ryan, Edmund McDonald



    Join Hollywood’s Most Famous Slapstick Comedy Duo!


    Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are two of the most well known comedy duos to hit the screen in early cinema. While they each began their careers independently in silent films from 1913-1917, they decided to become a team in the late ‘20s after appearing in several movies together. They went on to star in over 100 films together beginning with 20-minute silent films and then moving on to talkies and full-length features while moving between various movie studios.

    Their comedy acts were known for gags that included the famous pie-throwing and constantly breaking things or ripping clothes. Their movements were much exaggerated and this helped them become successful comedians as they broke over language barriers to deliver comedy visually. Never witty or satirical in their dialogue, Laurel and Hardy appeared on the level of common folk to gain the largest audience.

    For what seemed like an absence in Laurel and Hardy films between the years of 1936-1940, only making a handful in comparison to the movie making machine they seemed to have in the years prior, the three films appearing in this Cinema Classics Collection from 20th Century Fox are those films during the war years. Fox’s first film with the comedy duo was Great Guns and was released with an advertising campaign promoting the comedy duo was back on the big screen. Working for a larger studio like Fox proved to be very different for Laurel and Hardy because of new restrictions on their gags and the lack of control the studio allowed them on their work. Some film historians claim that their work during this period was very different from their earlier films, but that is the opinions of some and the decision is left entirely to the audience.

    I loved watching these three films; all of them are very different from each other. At times they were funny and other times I was just watching and waiting but still entertained nevertheless. While they aren’t perfect films or masterpieces by any means, the films deliver in humour between the slightly smarter Oliver (Ollie) Hardy and the not-so-bright Stan Laurel. The two of them work great on screen and apparently did the same behind the camera. It’s no wonder they are known as cinema classics because the two men were such great friends they made great movies together.

    Each film is presented on its own disc in its own keepcase and is packaged in slipbox to keep them together.


    DISC ONE – THE BIG NOISE

    Scientist Mr. Hartley who creates wacky inventions that no one will ever use (including the electric toothbrush). But after he creates a new super-bomb that he designed for Washington and can blow up city blocks if dropped, he hires Laurel and Hardy as private detectives. Little does the scientist know they are only two janitors who are pretending to be detectives and there is trouble for the two when a gang of crooks want the bomb! This was one of the last three Laurel and Hardy films Fox made and one of the final few the men made ever again.


    DISC TWO – GREAT GUNS

    This is the first Laurel and Hardy film released by 20th Century Fox. It features Stan and Ollie as a gardeners and chauffeurs who join the army to protect a 23-year old son of their employer. The boy was drafted and the two men fear that he needs their service; they fear that he is allergic to everything and very sick (as the boy’s doctor says) they stand by his side at almost every moment they can. But the boy is doing alright on his own as he picks up a fine dame from the photo lab while unknowingly outsmarting a colonel who has an eye for her too.


    DISC THREE – JITTERBUGS

    This film is considered as the best Laurel and Hardy projects filmed at 20th Century Fox. Highly produced and complicated in plot, Jitterbugs is a comedy-musical that has the men as Laurel and Hardy as the “Original Zoot Suit Band.” While running out of gas at the side of the road in the middle of a desert, the stranded men meet up with a con man named Chester who helps get them a gig at a carnival in another town. When people find out that they have a hand in Chester’s cons (because they were fooled too), the three men make a great escape from the angry crowd. But Chester had just met up with a naïve young lady and sees a financial incentive to keep a con going hoping to acquire more than $10 000 out of it. Since her money was stolen, the three of them figure a way to get it back by having Stanley play her rich aunt and Ollie play a dame-chasing rich Texan. The results turn out not as planned as they try to get money back from these dangerous crooks and the three of them must find ways to keep conning and not end up in the bottom of a lake encased in cement! A very funny film but a little too smart for Laurel and Hardy?


    [​IMG]
    THE BIG NOISE: VIDEO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    GREAT GUNS: VIDEO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    JITTERBUGS: VIDEO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The ratings for these discs are determined by putting all three films against each other and using the best looking one as a reference. In this case, The Big Noise is the best looking disc of the three. I keep thinking back to the Film Noir Classic Laura that Fox released; a title that I was very impressed with in terms of video. If you have Laura, think the DVD quality of that film and then think The Big Noise.

    The Big Noise, when viewed with a colour temperature of 5400K, has a lower contrast than the other two films. Shadow detail is very good. But let me say that I was very impressed with the clean print quality on my 110” screen. It should be even more impressive on smaller displays. Print blemishes are few and far between if not undetectable! This is the later film of all three of them so that may have something to do with it. Resolution is absolutely excellent and one can even see the fine textures on clothing. Very impressive!

    Great Guns is almost as good as The Big Noise. The only things distinguishing the two apart would be the amount of artefacts on the print. Artefacts are more noticeable on Great Guns and at times it exhibits a slightly fuzzy image and an occasional shakiness of the print. Film grain is also a little more apparent in the background images like the sky. I did find this film to have slightly better contrast.

    Jitterbugs is the problematic title of the three. From the opening credits I could see the problem. I’m sorry that I don’t know the correct terminology for this effect nor what causes it (anyone can chime in here with the answer) but the problem is on the film itself and not a problem with the DVD. The effect I see is a ghost that appears in the vertical direction above the images. For example, during the opening credits, the lettering has a white ghost that extends high upwards above them. You can’t read the ghosting image, but you know its there because it contrasts with the background. It doesn’t stop there either: it appears throughout the movie so if we watch Stan and Ollie walk around outside beside their stranded car, there is faint white ghosting image of them moving above their heads to the top of the frame. Again, it is noticeable because of the contrast difference of that effect and the background.

    Aside from that problem, Jitterbugs is the softest of the three but not dramatically. There also appears to be a hint of edge outlining in some scenes, but that is always subject to debate as far as where that comes from so I’m not going to say that serious edge enhancement was applied on this film. The dark parts of the image are also undefined and there is little detail in those areas. It still looks a billion times better than anyone has seen before and keeps up with the quality Fox has been delivering with their Film Noir, Studio Classics (where have they been lately?) and Cinema Classics Collections.

    The aspect ratios for all three films are 1.33:1 and they are not windowboxed for overscan on 4:3 displays during the opening and closing credits as virtually all other classics I’ve reviewed here have been. That makes me very happy!! Since I view all DVDs with less than 1% overscan all around my display it is nice not to see big thick black bars all around the image.

    Viewers will also be happy to know that compression artefacts are virtually absent from all three DVDs. They all look fantastic on such a large screen!


    [​IMG]AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The audio, available in both Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and stereo, is consistent in quality with all three titles. Background noise is low for the most part give and take a few scenes, but it’s nothing to get specific about here. Dialogue is always intelligible and sound effects are dated but are presented well in the mix. There never appeared to be any strain or distortion in the sound and the music for all three films is well recorded for its time taking a front seat in the mix. While some of you may think that a rating of four stars is high for old films, you must remember that I’m not comparing them to new titles and I was impressed with the audio in relation to other monaural films of this era.

    The stereo track, for those of you interested, sounds diffused and unfocused. I recommend listening to the mono option.


    [​IMG]SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Each disc comes with its own set of special features and what is included is relatively similar between the three of them. All three titles include an audio commentary from author Randy Skretvedt. He wrote the book Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies and seems very knowledgeable on this comedy duo. But what makes these commentaries great is not just the wealth of information, but this author has very good character and is well spoken. You WANT to listen to this guy because he’s interesting and not boring. He uses a lot of intonation and you can hear he is excited to speak on this commentary track.

    All three titles also feature a photo gallery. The Big Noise has five, Great Guns has the most at eighty, and Jitterbugs has ten. The photos on Great Guns are very interesting because they are everything from promotional ads to newspaper articles that you can read.

    A Fox Movietone News clip is available on Great Guns and it’s the Opening of the Freemont Theatre. Jitterbugs has the Inauguration of the Railway, which seems to be the worlds smallest passenger railway. I’m not sure if that was actually something that tried to become a commercial success but this train is so small it looks like something you’d find kids riding in a mall. Of course, both of these clips feature Laurel and Hardy at these events. The audio is not consistent between them and even drops out to silence at times.

    The Big Noise also includes a 30-minute documentary titled The Revenge of the Sons of the Desert. I only watched a short piece of it, but it is about a “club” of Laurel and Hardy fans in the U.S.A. that was filmed by Alexander Marshall.

    All discs include their theatrical trailers as well as the theatrical trailers for the other films in the set and Bullfighters, the last Laurel and Hardy film that is not included in this set and is unavailable on DVD (a future release, maybe?)

    Each disc does come with an insert that has a write-up on Laurel and Hardy in as well as a list of chapter stops. There is also original 1941/1944 theatrical press books included with The Big Noise and Great Guns.


    IN THE END…

    These Laurel and Hardy films look and sound great and are of the quality that I expect from 20th Century Fox. They will give you a glimpse into the careers of Laurel and Hardy, at least a glimpse at near the end of their career. These films are different from their earlier ones, most likely because there are wartime films – filmed during the Second World War and have obvious allusions to it. These films also fell under control of the studio and out of Laurel and Hardy’s hands so creative control was also different than the past. I think these films are historical for these men yet very entertaining as well. If you haven’t had the chance to look at Laurel and Hardy yet, I recommend this DVD set to catch a glimpse of the men’s successful careers.

    Michael Osadciw
    April 15, 2006.
     
  2. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    Actually, Stan Laurel was the creative gagman for their films , while Oliver Hardy was content to only perform. He preferred to play golf when not before the cameras, and always deferred to Stan about artistic decisions. There was no competition between the two over this ; it's merely the way they were both happiest.
     
  3. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Nice review Mike. I picked up my set last week although I haven't had a chance to dig into it. Like the upcoming WB set, these titles aren't necessarily top tier L&H, but kudos to the studios for offering them rather than re-releasing yet another re-packaged previously-released group of titles.

    Speaking of which, I'll have the WB L&H Collection posted by the end of the day.

    Herb.
     
  4. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Excellent review. The films aren't the greatest but at least Fox released them.



    I brought this up in the other thread and I'd be curious to know if there is a "term" for whatever this was. I've never seen anything like it before.
     
  5. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Rob - thanks for pointing that out. I read that Stan had total control of the films and did the writing - which was the reason why he was aggrevated when they fell into Fox's control. I've changed the word in the review [​IMG]

    Herb! I'm looking forward to your review. I'm very interested in digging further into the Laurel and Hardy films. I've become obsessed with classics and I just want to watch them all! he heh...

    Michael - I hope we can find a term for it - maybe there isn't...? We can put our brains together and make one up if that's the case! I'd like to call it "flaring" since it kinda reminds me of flames shooting high above the object...

    Me.
     
  6. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter
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    Thanks for the great extensive review Mike. I find it sad that there is so little of this comedy team (my favorite) on dvd. In the UK they have a beautiful complete set of all shorts and most films. I am so tired of waiting for something like that here. About 8 years ago (maybe more) AMC had a 24 hour marathon of Laurel and Hardy and I taped it, that's the only thing I have and the tapes are in terrible shape now, dropouts everywhere. I understand from another thread here that Hallmark owns much of the rights. What's wrong with them?

    I am strongly considering getting an all-region player that converts PAL to NTSC, because I really want that set. In the meantime, this one looks good as well, but nothing as extensive as the UK set

    21 discs, wow, over 70 hours): Here's the set pictured:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/...683170-0438818
     
  7. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    Robert:

    I've picked up several of the UK discs through Amazon.co.uk and they are wonderful! The prices have dropped since they were originally released, with some of the single discs running about $10US!!!
     
  8. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    If it is streaking above any white areas in the image, it's probably travel ghost. This occurs when the shutter is mistimed and does not fully block light from reaching the film during the time when the film is in motion moving from frame to frame. It can occur either in the upwards direction or the downwards direction from bright areas in the film, depending on whether the shutter is late or early with respect to the films motion.

    Without seeing a frame capture, I can't be sure if this is what you are seeing, though.

    Ted
     
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    more great stuff that I did not know was being released
     
  10. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks for the great review Mike.

    In my opinion, this collection out-Foxes the TCM Archives collection (sorry for the bad pun). Why? Although the Warner collection is excellent in its own right, Fox has put together a package that does these films justice.

    I've listened to all 3 Randy Skretvedt commentaries and they are a wealth of interesting and relevent information. This guy did his homework and it shows. He talks non-stop from start to finish for each film and yet minimizes any overlap of information between the three.

    All three DVDs have inserts with extensive liner notes from Sylvia Stoddard (a HTF member). Great job Syliva! Fox also deserves kudos for using the original poster art for covers and for including the newsreel and SONS documentary footage they did.

    Other than the anomolies noted regarding JITTERBUGS all three look and sound excellent. Warners can't be faulted for their transfers of 70+ year old films that probably had problems from inception, but the look of the Fox films is substantially better to me.

    Finally, some will disagree strongly, but in my opinion these films are entertaining and funny, although Great Guns isn't up to the level of the other two. Randy said in his commentary for BIG NOISE that he owed the film an apology for trashing it in his book because he wrote it without having seen the film recently. I personally think NOISE and JITTERBUGS are better than Bonnie Scotland (included in the Warners set) and both made me laugh out loud repeatedly.

    Great Guns is quite mediocre and other than watching Hardy swirm when the crow went down his pants it didn't have as many laughs for me. Fortunately Fox hooked L&H up with a better director for the other 2 films.

    Fox priced this set to sell and provided fans with an attractive package to boot. If anybody from Fox is reading this: great job and I look forward to Volume 2!

    Steve
     
  11. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    Him and many other reviewers, IMO. I think THE BIG NOISE is quite funny and is a consistent nod back to the great L&H films of old. It's very easy to watch and enjoy.
     
  12. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Agreed. I was rather shocked to see it get a BOMB rating in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide.
     
  13. JohnPM

    JohnPM Second Unit

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    The Fox Laurel and Hardys got a bad rap for many years, but they have slowly been rehabilitated within the last decade. These DVD releases will go a long way toward increasing their credibility with fans. They are certainly not the best of L&H, but they all have considerable points of interest.

    http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/
     
  14. John Whittle

    John Whittle Stunt Coordinator

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    >>From the opening credits I could see the problem. I’m sorry that I don’t know the correct terminology for this effect nor what causes it (anyone can chime in here with the answer) but the problem is on the film itself and not a problem with the DVD. The effect I see is a ghost that appears in the vertical direction above the images.

    I haven't received my set yet, but from your description, this isn't a shutter travel problem (that happens on projection when the shutter of the projector is still a slight bit open as the film starts to move thru the projector gate and is something that doesn't happen in telecine) but rather a chemical processing problem called "bromide smear". This happens in development of the negative, fine grain and/or positive print and builds up with each duplication process. What happens is the film is starved for developer and the bromide in the MQ prevents the developing agent from getting to the film. The direction of the smear is relative to the travel of the film thru the processing machine.

    As techniques advanced, spray bars and nitrogen agitation reduced and unltimately elminated this problem.

    John
     
  15. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

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    The biggest problem with the Fox/MGM 1940's L & H films was that they were out of TV circulation and many never released on Home video or had limited release on Home Video that many critics like Maltin have never seen them or had not seen them in many years. Fans then repeated these book reviews and circulated it as general fact. I really enjoy comdies from the 1940's during WW2 with Abbott and Costello being my favorite. This is probably part of the appeal with these films for me. I actually like "Jitterbugs" far less than the other Fox films. It was too smart for them or it felt like anyone could have played the parts where many of the other Fox films felt like L and H films and included many of their classic routines even if they were recycled. This again shows how mixed up the reviews had been on these films. The films are given negative reviews for not being L & H material but " Jitterbugs " is reffered as the best and that film is the least L and H like material.They are not L & H's best films but they stand up to many of the Roach films from the 1930's including Bonnie Scotland which I agree is certainly no better than these Fox film's. The Devil's Brother is far superior though. Fox did do a better job on their set than Warner's. I look forward to Vol. 2 of the Fox films, hopefully real soon. Warner really dropped the ball by using the 2nd disc for just extras instead of including "Air Raid Wardens" and "Nothing but Trouble". Hopefully they will release these on a Double Feature disc soon.
     
  16. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    Randy, I suspect you're relatively young.

    Leonard Maltin has been writing about movie comedy since the 1960's and his first movie guide was published in that same decade, long before home video.

    To suggest he rated these films based on fuzzy memory is both insulting and highly doubtful. It would have been relatively easy to catch up with these films before home video as the studios all had thriving film libraries on 16mm and even 35mm in the pre-video days. Movie revival theatres were a thriving subculture in almost every major city in North America. The only L & H film I ever saw in a movie theatre was a Saturday matinee of Great Guns in the 1960's, and if Fox still had prints in Canada there were certainly prints available in the United States. Film conventions like Cinecon have been screening classic movies for buffs such as Maltin for decades as well. Maltin is also a long -time film collector, back in the days when film collectors actually collected movies on real film.

    This is starting to sound like a rant, which is not intended, but I can assure you that few people know their L & H better than Mr Maltin. Disagree with his opinions all you want, but don't underestimate his credentials in this particular area.
     
  17. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    I just picked up this set today, it'll be my first induction into the L&H Fox years... can't wait to dig into it!
     
  18. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

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    With this boxset, as well as the TCM/Warners both out and selling well, wouldn't you think that those idiots at Hallmark would get off their duffs and arrange for the European Universal high-quality Roach titles to get a proper R1 release? Criminey, how stupid can they be? Sitting on material that's all ready for release...all they have to do is to work out the royality with the European wing of Universal that actually cleaned up the other Roach titles.

    It's one thing for MGM/Sony to sit on "The Loved One" - perhaps it needs a lot of work and they don't know how many they'd sell (have they checked eBay to see how much the VHS copies are going for), but Hallmark has an absolutely guaranteed market of interest.

    I wish some company with brains would buy the Roach material off Hallmark.
     
  19. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Maltin, whom I adore and respect, is indeed a L&H expert, but he was subject to the same limitations as other critics back in the pre-home video days where films weren't readily available for viewing.

    John McCabe, who I think did more to promote the L&H cause than anyone and wrote some truly seminal books on them, perpetuated the anti-Fox film movement (partially based on comments from Stan). It's now reported that he hadn't seen these films himself. As mentioned previously, Randy Skretvedt admitted writing his trashy review of these films based on distant memories of having seen them long before he wrote his comments.

    I don't think anyone is saying that the Fox films are at the level of their Roach shorts and classic features, but they're hardly the abominations that we've been led to believe they were all these years.

    As Barry said above, hopefully this set and the Warner set will get L&H back into the public eye and put additional pressure on Hallmark to do something productive with their library.
     
  20. BarryM

    BarryM Stunt Coordinator

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    To Jonathan-S

    No question about the reduction in quality on the 1940's post-Roach features, but the quality of a movie starring important people has never been or should be the deciding factor if a studio wants to release it to the public.

    You can't bitch about Fox using their brains to properly package their less-than-great L&H movies for DVD release. Indeed, kudos to them for doing it.

    Yes, they're not as good as the Roach films. No one is saying that they are.

    If you want to get technical, "Bonnie Scotland" is perhaps their weakest Roach-era features....should TCM and WB not release it?

    I have no interest in 99% of the TV series that the various studios are releasing on DVD to much fanfare. Should they be released just because I don't care about them? You betcha.

    So...the quality of the screenplays of these later L&H features are not really in dispute.

    Gee whiz, I would like to see a restored DVD of "Atoll K"...and everyone knows it's a crap movie!
     

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