The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 Blu ray Review

4 Stars More emphasis on music and dance in this fifth volume of classic comedy shorts.
The Little Rascals Review

It’s yet another sterling package of remarkably remastered and restored Our Gang comedy shorts in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5.

The Lucky Corner (1936)
Released: 14 Mar 1936
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 12 min
Director: Gus Meins
Genre: Comedy, Family, Short
Cast: Scotty Beckett, George 'Spanky' McFarland, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer
Writer(s): N/A
Plot: The gang help Scotty and his grandfather after an obnoxious lunch counter owner forces them to move their lemonade stand.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: ClassicFlix
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 3 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 04/05/2022
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4/5

With ClassicFlix’s penultimate fifth volume of restored Our Gang shorts produced by Hal Roach, The Little Rascals add to their ranks their last important discoveries during the era of the Oscar-winning Roach’s tenure: Darla “Cookie” Hood, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, and Eugene “Porky” Lee. Though the gang’s ranks would continue to ebb and flow during the remaining years of their existence both under Roach’s supervision and later in the fading MGM-supervised years, the core group we have in the last half dozen of the twelve two-reelers contained in this package will constitute one of the most fondly remembered of all of the Our Gang casts.

Spanky McFarland continues to be the group’s marquee star, and very soon he becomes the gang’s head honcho especially once “Stymie” Beard exits the cast with “Teacher’s Beau,” and Scott Beckett bids adieu in “The Lucky Corner,” and with Alfalfa coming more into prominence with each successive short after his introduction in “Beginner’s Luck” (where Alfalfa and his real-life brother Harold sing a cornpone rendition of “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain”), he claims the only serious threat to Spanky’s dominance in later shorts.

With the addition of the crooning Alfalfa (with an untamed cowlick, a face full of freckles, and a mouth where his baby teeth have made noticeable exits) and the adorable Darla (who was a genuine singer with a decided throb in her voice), Hal Roach began incorporating more and more musical specialties into the Our Gang shorts and even innocuous shorts like “The Lucky Corner” feature not only Alfalfa but also other talented singers and dancers into the proceedings. The set’s musical highlights begin with successive appearances by the Five Cabin Kids who sing close harmony renditions of “Dinah” in “Beginner’s Luck” and “Old McDonald’s Farm” in “Teacher’s Beau” but kick into high gear during “The Pinch Singer,” a radio talent contest that features a singing and dancing troupe doing “Broadway Melody” and a blackfaced trio singing “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” In fact, blackface is a common theme in several of these shorts: Spanky masquerades as Buckwheat in “Anniversary Trouble” and Alfalfa in “The Pinch Singer” blackens his face to try to fool Spanky into letting him get through a rendition of “On the Road to Californy.”

But the real musical highlights are reserved for the “Our Gang Follies of 1936.” Though not as slick and lavishly produced as the sequel to this short which would be produced two years later and mark the zenith in the production of Our Gang shorts, there is plenty to savor in this first attempt. Spanky and the gang have concocted a revue for the neighborhood kids that features the Bud Murray Dancers, the talented Bryan Sisters trio singing the close harmony “How’r You Gonna Keep ‘em Back on the Farm?” Darla’s swinging “I’ll Never Say Never Again,” the splendidly spooky “The Ghost Frolic” with its prancing skeletons, Alfalfa singing (almost decently for a change) “The Object of My Affection,” and a slapstick finale with the gang donning drag to mimic the Flora Dora Sextette.

For those non-musical fans, though, never fear. There are plenty of slapstick antics sans musical accompaniment in “Little Papa” where the gang’s football game is interrupted when Spanky has to babysit, “Little Sinner” where Spanky ditches Sunday school to try out his new rod and reel, “Second Childhood” where the gang brings new pep to an aging woman (Zeffie Tilbury) who has nothing to live for, and the zany “Divot Diggers” where the gang tries its hand at golf and then lends their talents toward being caddies for a quartet of middle-aged duffers. As in so many of the previous comedies, adults play pivotal roles in some of the stories: Johnny Arthur plays Spanky’s absent-minded dad in “Anniversary Trouble,” Edward Norris casts a handsome if threatening shadow for the gang as the man out to marry their pretty teacher in “Teacher’s Beau,” future Oscar-winner Hattie McDaniel plays Buckwheat’s mother in two shorts, and, most enjoyable, the return of Olive and George Brasno as little people masquerading as kids to get a day off from the sideshow but who get snatched up by the truant officer and made to participate in the school’s pageant for “Arbor Day.”

Here are the twelve shorts contained in this fifth volume of restorations:

1 – Anniversary Trouble

2 – Beginner’s Luck

3 – Teacher’s Beau

4 – Sprucin’ Up

5 – Little Papa

6 – Little Sinner

7 – Our Gang Follies of 1936

8 – The Pinch Singer

9 – Divot Diggers

10 – The Lucky Corner

11 – Second Childhood

12 – Arbor Day

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The shorts are displayed at the 1.37:1 aspect ratio and are presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. These shorts look astonishingly good with crisp, clean images and a startlingly good grayscale which features deep blacks and clean white levels. There is lots of detail to be seen, and it is almost impossible to believe that these shorts are approaching ninety years of age. Never have they looked so clear and wonderfully dialed-in as they do here.

Audio: 3.5/5

The ancient sound elements for these shorts are presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound, but there is hiss, mostly softer than in earlier shorts in this series, in almost every one of these shorts and a bit of crackle here and there. One can’t expect hefty fidelity in films this old, and you’d be right not to expect much bass in the mixes. Still, the audio quality is more than acceptable.

Special Features: 2/5

Restoration Comparison (4:46, HD): comparison featurette shows the often atrocious shape of what ClassicFlix had to work with in bringing this kind of astonishing quality to the images of these short comedies. Split-screen compares side-by-side images from the same film in before and after shots or sometimes we get split screen with before on the left and after on the right.

ClassicFlix Trailers (HD): The Little Rascals Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4.

Overall: 4/5

It’s yet another sterling package of remarkably remastered and restored Our Gang comedy shorts in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5. The comedy is wonderful, and the ever-growing musical emphasis is sometimes quite sublime. Only one more volume and fans will have the complete collection of Hal Roach-produced Our Gang sound comedies. Obviously for fans, highly recommended!

 

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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Matt Hough

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The picture quality on all of the main titles is just crystal clear, sharp, and perfect. We didn't always see these credits growing up watching the shorts on TV, so their restorations are also revelations.
 

ahollis

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Allen
This was just brilliant. One of my favorite is Our Gang Follies of 1936. I purchased a super 8mm sound copy from Blackhawk films back around 1970 and ran it until it was in shreds. I also owned it on VHS, laser disc and DVD. Never have I seen it so sharp and clear with such wonderful sound. The rest of the shorts are just as amazing. Thank you ClassicFlix.
 

PMF

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This was just brilliant. One of my favorite is Our Gang Follies of 1936. I purchased a super 8mm sound copy from Blackhawk films back around 1970 and ran it until it was in shreds.
Blackhawk Films in Davenport, Iowa rocked & rolled my 1970s world. Oh, how I hustled for those extra few hours at my bellhop job just to get another order in. Remember their sales? Remember those “Back-Ordered” postcards”? Weeks and weeks of waiting was a standard and accepted fare. By comparison, any delays from Amazon is a big don’t-sweat-it nothing.

As it stands, one single reel of a Little Rascals short in Super 8mm with Magnetic Sound - without the 1970s sale - could cost us more than one single Little Rascals BD from ClassicFlix that holds 12 shorts with, let alone, a brand “Spanky” new restoration to beat the band.

I have too many accolades for what ClassicFlix has given and achieved.

Great reading your revue, Matt.
 
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