Laurel and Hardy The Definitive Restorations 4 Blu-ray set from Kit Parker Films and MVD is an absolute must for comedy fans, film buffs, and, of course, afficionados of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This is such a spectacular and important release we have decided to dedicate 2 reviews for it. This review focuses on discs 1 and 2 of Laurel and Hardy The Definitive Restorations.
First. The restorations are brilliant. Aside from a thirty-some second moment in on of the shorts the films are as crisp as they would have been at their premieres.
Disc 1 features the 1933 Laurel and Hardy classic Sons of the Desert (after which the Laurel and Hardy fan club is named). Here, the boys finagle their way out of promises made to their wives so they can go to their big lodge party. There are a lot of gags packed in one hour and many became comedy classics. There are at least two episodes of The Flintstones inspired by this.
The shorts on this disc are The Battle of the Century (1927) and Berth Marks (1929). Battle of the Century has Ollie buying an accident insurance and he and Laurel try to cash in on it. This short features a very long (if a little incomplete according to the commentary track) and elaborate pie fight and probably the best banana peel gag ever filmed. Berth Marks has Stan and Ollie sharing a berth on a train. The amount of visual jokes in this 19 minute comedy classic is astounding. This short comes with two soundtracks. One from the 1932 re-release and one from the 1936 re-release.
Disc 2 of Laurel & Hardy The Definitive Restorations contains 5 Stan and Ollie shorts. The best is Brats (1930) where Laurel and Hardy have to babysit their look-alike sons. The split screen technique used to put Ollie and Stan in the same frame as the kid versions of Ollie and Stan is flawless. The oversized furniture used to make L & H appear to be kids is not always dimensionally correct but who cares. This is a hell of a funny comedy short.
Other shorts on disc 2 are Hog Wild (1930), Come Clean (1931), One Good Turn (1931), and Me and My Pal (1933). Hog Wild’s premise is Hardy has to put up a radio aerial on his roof and Laurel helps as well as he often does. The gags are superb. Come Clean has the boys hiding from their wives in the attic. It’s fun stuff. One Good Turn has Laurel and Hardy hard on their luck but trying to help what they believed is a destitute old lady by selling their car.
Me and My Pal is also an excellent Laurel and Hardy short. The very original premise is Ollie is supposed to get married but gets delayed by a puzzle. Everybody who goes looking for him also tries to finish the puzzle. It is amazing how much this comedy duo can do with such a minor premise.
Even the commentary tracks that accompany the films and shorts are interesting. This is not often the case. I have a preference for the tracks featuring Randy Skretvedt over Richard W. Bann. I found Skretvedt more natural and convivial. Both commentators know their stuff and are interesting but Skredvedt comes across as more of a die hard fan and that makes what he says that much more interesting.
The only weak point to Laurel and Hardy The Definite Restorations is I would have liked an informative booklet to accompany this 4 Blu-ray set. But this is just me being very difficult.
The second review for this superb collection is here.
If you are a fan of classic and silent movies, I highly recommend the Accidentally Preserved releases by composer and classic film buff Ben Model