Laurel & Hardy – The Definitive Restorations arrives on Blu-ray from Kit Parker Films and MVD Visual with “restored” versions of two features and several of their two-reel shorts.
The Production: 4.5/5
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are one of the most famous and well-known comedy teams to come out of Hal Roach Studios, starting in the silent era and segued to even more success as they easily made the transition to sound. Laurel & Hardy – The Definitive Restorations is a collection of two of their feature-length adventures, a long-thought lost silent short, sixteen of their two-reel talkies, two of their special interest shorts, plus galleries, trailers, and interviews.
My father introduced me to this comedy duo when I was growing up, focused mostly on their collection of shorts. As I got older, I began to seek out their feature-length movies, but found that, at least to me, the team worked best in the two-reel shorts (of which they made nearly 100 of), with The Music Box being their masterpiece, a simple story of two men hired to deliver a piano up a long flight of stairs in which nothing goes as planned.
Although the set contains the long-lost silent short The Battle of the Century in its near-complete form, this is the only silent short included here, and that is a bit of a disappointment. What is included, at least the wealth of it, almost makes up for that fact.
Sons of the Desert – feature
The Battle of the Century – silent short
Berth Marks – sound short (with 1929 and 1936 soundtracks)
Brats – sound short (with 1930 and 1937 soundtracks)
Hog Wild – sound short
Come Clean – sound short
One Good Turn – sound short
Me and My Pal – sound short
Helpmates – sound short
The Music Box – sound short
The Chimp – sound short
County Hospital – sound short
Scram! – sound short
Their First Mistake – sound short
The Midnight Patrol – sound short
Busy Bodies – sound short
Way Out West – feature
Towed in a Hole – sound short
Twice Two – sound short
That’s That – sound short comprised of outtakes, created as a birthday gift for Stan Laurel
The Tree in a Test Tube – silent short (in color) for the Department of Agriculture
3D Rating: NA
Laurel & Hardy – The Definitive Restorations is quite possibly the most difficult release on Blu-ray that I’ve had to review in my twelve years as a reviewer for Home Theater Forum. There has been quite a debate on this forum and other sites regarding the video quality of this release, with some claiming that this is the best these films have ever looked, others claiming that some look nothing like film. Nearly all of the films in this collection have not been treated well by their rights keepers over the 80-90 years since these films were made, with the original nitrate negatives lost forever on a majority of these. Also, the restoration efforts on these films are not consistent, with some having been restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, Library of Congress, or Jeff Joseph at SabuCat. Some have been scanned at 2K, others at 4K, often from various sources (35mm, 16mm, different generations from the negative). Some of the films appear washed out with limited contrast, others have excellent contrast. Are these improved upon over previous releases? I’m going to say yes, however some of the digital cleanup tools that were used in these restorations appear to have, in the process, removed much of the native film grain, giving the movies a sterile, almost waxy look. Unfortunately, The Music Box is the worst victim of this unfortunate side effect.
The entire collection is presented in PCM 2.0 mono (except for The Battle of the Century, which features a stereo orchestral score by Donald Sosen). Like the video, many of these audio tracks have been cleaned up to varying degrees, yet still suffer from the low fidelity recording technology of their time. The audio, overall, is definitely cleaner than I recall these sounding in the past, although some still have the occasional pop or hiss. Ironically, the best sounding “talkie” in the set is The Music Box, which sounds nearly pristine.
Special Features: 5/5
There is a lot of bonus material in this set, more than enough to make any Laurel & Hardy fan drool.
Sons of the Desert Audio Commentary by Randy Skredtvedt
The Battle of the Century Audio Commentary by Richard Bann
Berth Marks Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Sons of the Desert Galleries (1080p): Publicity Portraits (3:31), Scene Stills (4:23), Deleted and Candids (3:36), Posters and Publicity (7:22), Early Script (3:57), Dialogue Continuity (3:54) and Contracts and Documents (2:57)
Battle of the Century (1080p; 7:38)
Berth Marks (1080p; 5:02)
Portraits in Costume Gallery (1080p; 9:52)
Early Career: Stan (1080p; 4:26)
Early Career: Babe (1080p; 5:55)
Anita Garvin Interview (1080p; 9:18): Filmed in Super 8mm by Randy Skretdvedt in 1981.
Joe Rock Interview (1080p; 9:35): Filmed in Super 8mm by Randy Skretdvedt in 1981.
Roy Seawright Interview (1080p; 14:56): Filmed in Super 8mm by Randy Skretdvedt in 1981.
Oliver Hardy Interview (1080p; 3:30): Interviewed by Jack Mangan in 1950.
Sons of the Desert Trailer (1080p; 2:35): The only known trailer to have survived, in Spanish.
L & H Books by Randy Skretdvedt (1080p; 1:53): Graphics and text of books on Laurel & Hardy written by Randy Skretdvedt.
Special Thanks (1080p; 1:22): Roll call of many who helped make this release possible.
Brats Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Hog Wild Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Come Clean Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
One Good Turn Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Me and My Pal Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Intro and Billy Bletcher (4:27)
Joe Rock (4:32)
Hal Roach (9:12)
Anita Garvin Stanley (4:35)
George Marshall (2:54)
Roy Seawright (6:15)
Venice Lloyd (4:45)
Richard Currier (8:06)
Bert Jordan (7:53)
Walter Woolf King (3:34)
Lucille Hardy Price (8:50)
Marvin Hatley (3:24)
Honolulu Baby and Lovey-Dovey (6:00)
Brats (1080p; 9:26)
Hog Wild (1080p; 7:20)
Come Clean (1080p; 8:34)
One Good Turn (1080p; 9:38)
Me and My Pal (1080p; 4:43)
Hardy Vim Scrapbook (1080p; 5:54)
Hollywood Friends (1080p; 2:37)
Catalina July 1934 (1080p; 2:30)
Helpmates Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
The Music Box Audio Commentary by Richard Bann
The Chimp Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
County Hospital Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Scram! Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Their First Mistake Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
The Midnight Patrol Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Busy Bodies Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Helpmates (1080p; 7:51)
The Music Box (1080p; 11:11)
The Chimp (1080p; 7:31)
County Hospital (1080p; 10:46)
Scram! (1080p; 8:46)
Their First Mistake (1080p; 5:22)
The Midnight Patrol (1080p; 6:12)
Busy Bodies (1080p; 7:58)
A Short History of the Hal Roach Studios (1080p; 6:32)
Supporting Player (1080p; 3:09)
Crew Members (1080p; 3:47)
Studio Hijinks (1080p; 2:42)
Snapshots from the UK Vacation (1080p; 5:20)
Way Out West Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Towed in a Hole Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Twice Two Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
That’s That Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
The Tree in a Test Tube Audio Commentary by Randy Skretdvedt
Way Out West Galleries (1080p): Portrait Stills ( 5:58), Scene Stills (6:12), Candid Stills (5:31), Pressbook Articles and Artwork (7:43), Poster and Lobby Card Artwork (5:01), Original 1913 Sheet Music (2:47), Script and Synopsis (7:42), and Dialogue Continuity, Cues and Letters (4:02)
Towed in a Hole (1080p; 6:27)
Twice Two (1080p; 4:48)
That’s That (1080p; 2:10)
The Tree in a Test Tube (1080p; 2:10)
Portraits Out of Costume (1080p; 4:02)
Laurel & Hardy Golf (1080p; 3:50)
Special Occasions (1080p; 3:59)
Odd Publicity Shots (1080p; 2:35)
Stan in Retirement (1080p; 4:22)
Way Out West Trailer (1080p; 1:21)
Marvin Hatley Music Tracks (1080p; 25:22)
Beau Hunks 1931 Trailer (1080p; 0:54)
Pack Up Your Troubles 1932 Trailer (1080p; 1:54)
Babes in Toyland 1934 Trailer (1080p; 3:26)
The Flying Deuces 1939 Trailer (1080p; 2:17)
A Chump at Oxford 1940 Trailer (1080p; 1:23)
Saps at Sea 1940 Trailer (1080p; 1:55)
With all the extras and the “restored” movies in this set, this is certainly a “must have” for Laurel and Hardy fans. I only wish more from their silent era had been included.