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Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Safety Last!” is a magnificent film and is a Harold Lloyd masterpiece that will continue to entertain silent comedy fans for many generations to come.  Not only are you getting one classic film but also three newly restored Harold Lloyd shorts plus the long, sought after Harold Lloyd documentary “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius”.   This release is deserving of five stars!  Highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662

YEAR OF FILM: 1923

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Silent

COMPANY: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc./THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2013

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

Story by Hal Roach, Sam Taylor, Tim Whelan

Titles by H.M. Walker

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes

Producer: Hal Roach

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Music: Carl Davis

Edited by Thomas J. Crizer

Starring:

Harold Lloyd as The Boy

Mildred Davis as The Girl

Bill Strother as The Pal

Noah Young as The Law

The comic genius of silent star Harold Lloyd is eternal. Chaplin was the sweet innocent, Keaton the stoic outsider, but Lloyd—the modern guy striving for success—is us. And with its torrent of perfectly executed gags and astonishing stunts, Safety Last! is the perfect introduction to him. Lloyd plays a small-town bumpkin trying to make it in the big city, who finds employment as a lowly department-store clerk. He comes up with a wild publicity stunt to draw attention to the store, resulting in an incredible feat of derring-do on his part that gets him started on the climb to success. Laugh-out-loud funny and jaw-dropping in equal measure, Safety Last! is a movie experience par excellence, anchored by a genuine legend.

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Many silent comedy fans consider Harold Lloyd as one of the three silent film comedy kings of the silent era alongside notable names such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  Lloyd’s comedies were enjoyable and similar to Keaton, Lloyd had the flair of doing his own stuntwork and when one is to watch his films today, there were a few that literally makes people gasp.

But the difference between these three men is that Harold Lloyd is not as well-known because unlike the other two, he wanted complete ownership of his films and if they were to be re-released or shown on television, he set the price high because he did not want TV commercials interrupting his film.  While, some appreciate Lloyd’s business-sense at the time to have complete ownership but also to be one of the first who looked into preserving his films, the unfortunate aspect is that unlike Chaplin or Keaton, his name would not be as well-known to the general public.

Of course, times have changed as more and more people are becoming fans of silent cinema, especially comedies, because they quickly learn that there are three men who earned a lot of money through the box office and were successful.  And for Harold Lloyd, one can only be thrilled that this wonderful filmmaker has been acknowledged by the Criterion Collection and his most popular film, “Safety Last!”, would be released by the Criterion Collection, in HD on Blu-ray!

One such film was “Safety Last!”, a silent film from 1923 and one of the many films included in the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection box set.   An impressive box set featuring over 25 classic comedies including well-known Lloyd films such as “Safety Last!”, “The Freshman”, “Speedy!” and many more.

If one was to see the film today, one would be impressed and stunned as their was no CGI, there was no green/blue screen.  This was Harold Lloyd showing us the most extreme when it comes to filmmaking by climbing a skyscraper to the onlookers below Los Angeles.  Needless to say, audiences were shocked about how far Lloyd had went with this film and although there were mini-stages built, this was one risky film that was adored back then and now being discovered by many today.

“Safety Last!” is about The Boy (played by Harold Lloyd) who moves to the big city in 1922 in order to make more income.  He leaves his beloved girlfriend (played by Mildred Davis) back at home and promises that he will marry her once he does well in the city.

Since moving to the city, he has sent his girlfriend letters everyday but the boy makes his life seem like life is going extremely well and that he is a manager at a major department store.

This is far from the truth as he lives with his pal (played by Bill Strother) who are late on their rent and have to hide from the landlord. The boy barely makes any money as he works at the De Vore department store in the fabric department and is an employee who often gets into trouble.

One day after finishing his shift, he runs into a police officer who happens to be an old friend of Harold.  The two joke around and when the boy meets up with his roommate, he jokes that he has influence with the police and persuades his friend to knock the policeman over.

What the boy doesn’t know is that when they are talking, his friend the police officer has left and another police officer has come in his place.  Needless to say, the boy’s friend pushes the cop and the boy learns that the police officer is not his friend.

The police officer then chases his friend around but the friend manages to escape by climbing a building.

Meanwhile, the boy decides what he should do with his pay.  He can get something to eat or buy his girlfriend a broach without a chain.  He forgoes the food and buys the broach but hopes to buy the chain when he makes more money.  He sends the gift to his girlfriend.

Upon receiving it, his girlfriend is so happy about the gift and the boy’s mother convinces his girlfriend to go to the city and see how he is doing.

So, one day during a wild day at work, the boy’s girlfriend appears and immediately, the boy must pretend that he is the manager of the department store.

Through a good stretch of gags and hijinks featuring the boy trying to fake his girlfriend, he overhears his boss talking about how they can bring people to the store and whoever can come up with an idea will get $1,000.  The boy thinks about his friend climbing the building and suggests the idea and his boss decides to give the boy’s idea a chance.

During the big day at De Vore Department store which has been promoted on the front page of a major local newspaper, many have come to see a man climb the building.

The boy’s friend is ready to scale the building but things don’t go as planned since the policeman who was chasing the boy’s friend is now trying to pursue him again.  With everyone all around the department store building expecting a man to climb, with his friend trying to avoid the police, the boy has no choice but to scale the building on his own.

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VIDEO:

“Safety Last is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:36:1 aspect ratio) and because Harold Lloyd believed in protecting his films, he was among the first to have his films preserved.  Not only were these films under lock and key in safes, he did whatever he can to make sure they were protected from fires or any damage.  It’s important to note that nitrate film does catch fire and he did experience a fire despite trying to protect his films, but fortunately because of that, it led Harold Lloyd to preserve his films.

And so, a lot of his films look fantastic compared to other silent films of that year or era.  At 90-years-old, picture quality for “Safety Last!”, looks incredible on Blu-ray.  White and grays are well-contrast, to see this film in HD versus the original 2005 DVD release, you notice how clear the film looks.  There are no signs of major damage, dark flickering or white specks.  Because the film is in HD, closeups and background look so much clearer and well-detailed.  I was impressed!

According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented at a variable frame rate of approximately 22 frames per second to conform to film historian and restorer Kevin Brownlow’s presentation and the Carl Davis score that accompanies it.  The new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DTF Scanity film scanner from a 35 mm nitrate print from Harold Lloyd’s personal collection, made from the original negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DTRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean., while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, jitter, flicker, and grain movement.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Safety Last!” comes with two musical soundtracks.  The Musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1989, synchronized and restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo (LPCM 2.0).  While also included is an alternate score by organist Gaylord Carter from the late 1960s, presented in uncompressed monaural (LPCM 1.0).

There are no subtitles because it is a silent film, but there are intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary – Featuring the original 2005 audio commentary which features film critic Leonard Maltin and director and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll.
  • Introduction by Suzanne Lloyd – (17:21) Featuring an introduction by Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter and president of Harold Lloyd Entertainment
  • Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius - (1:48:00) A classic 104-minute documentary from 1989 written by David Gill and Kevin Brownlow.
  • Three newly restored Lloyd shorts: Take a Chance (1918), Young Mr. Jazz (1919), and His Royal Slyness (1920), with commentary by Richard Correll and writer John Bengtson
  • Locations and Effects – (20:37) A new documentary featuring John Bengtson and special effects expert Craig Barron about the location of where “Safety Last!” was shot.
  • Carl Davis: Scoring for Harold – (24:08) A 2013 interview with Carl Davis who discusses working with Harold Lloyd.

EXTRAS:

“Safety Last! – The Criterion Collection #662″ comes with a 24-page booklet featuring the essays “High-Flying Harold” by Ed Park.

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Harold Lloyd is such a wonderful performer.  “Safety Last!” is a film that anyone can watch and just be surprised about his risky performance and just seeing a man dangling from a clock tower or a piece of wood with the city of Los Angeles right behind him.

Granted, Lloyd and crew prepared the actor with a small stage built to give the illusion that the building was being climbed, but still…he was climbing many feet up and also climbing with a missing thumb and forefinger (a few years earlier, Lloyd lost his thumb and forefinger during a photoshoot when he had to hold a bomb which was suppose to be a prop ended up being a live bomb and putting the actor in the hospital).

“Safety Last!” is everything you come to expect from a comedy!  A great story, great acting and a plenty of gags to keep the viewer entertained from beginning to end.  This is a true classic in every way and I can only hope that many people would give this wonderful film a chance and watch it with a smile and also with awe with what Harold Lloyd has accomplished.

I know many people today may ask, who is Harold Lloyd?  We heard of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton but who is Harry Lloyd?  Part of the reason why people have not heard much of Lloyd is because he had major control over his films.  Where as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton had an awesome career during the silent era, for those who study about the careers of the two men will learn that Hollywood was not to kind to them after the silent film era.  Also, Harold Lloyd’s asking price for a film for licensing was more than most companies wanted to pay for at the time.

So, there are over 300 films of Harold Lloyd that many of us have not seen and not sure if we will ever have the chance.

While Warner Bros. did release the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” on DVD back in 2005, by the time a second set was rumored to be released, Warner Bros. began focusing on their direct-to-DVD library for their classics.  While those of us who were aware of the picture quality of Lloyd’s films would someday be picked up by another company like the Criterion Collection, but at the time, those were just dreams.

But the fact that the Criterion Collection has released “Safety Last!” on Blu-ray, as a fan of Harold Lloyd’s work, I am absolutely thrilled that the Criterion Collection has decided to release the film on Blu-ray.  Not only is the picture quality magnificent, you get two scores and many more special features that were not included on the original Warner Bros. DVD.

As Criterion has done for their Chaplin releases, they have done a spectacular job with “Safety Last!”.  The new “Introduction with Suzanne Lloyd” was wonderful to watch, as with the “Location and Effects” featuring Bengston and special effects expert Craig Barron was a wonderful addition but how awesome to have Carl Davis discussing his working relationship with Lloyd in 2013.

But the most notable special features that made me excited was to see “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius”, the American Masterworks documentary by David Gill and Kevin Brownlow. With Chaplin’s “Unknown Chaplin” and Keaton’s “Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow” available to the masses, “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius” has not been released since 1991. It’s only available on VHS and as a Harold Lloyd fan and collector of Lloyd memorabilia and videos, I have not been able to get my hands on a copy of this documentary and here it is, included with the Criterion Collection’s “Safety Last!” release.

And while Chaplin and Keaton’s shorts have been made available on DVD for quite some time, Harold Lloyd’s shorts have not.  And with the “Safety Last!” release, you get three newly restored Lloyd shorts with “Take a Chance”, “Young Mr. Jazz” and “His Royal Shyness”, plus each of these shorts has optional commentary by Rich Correll and writer John Bengston.

One can only hope that more titles will be released by the Criterion Collection as Lloyd has created a number of wonderful films in his oeuvre, but the fact that Criterion Collection really goes out and gives you so much more.  As a Harold Lloyd fan, I’m really impressed by this release and very grateful for the Criterion Collection for making this release perfect!

Overall, “Safety Last!” is a magnificent film and is a Harold Lloyd masterpiece that will continue to entertain silent comedy fans for many generations to come.  Not only are you getting one classic film but also three newly restored Harold Lloyd shorts plus the long, sought after Harold Lloyd documentary “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius”.

This release is deserving of five stars!  Highly recommended!

Grandma’s Boy (from the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Harold Lloyd’s “Grandma’s Boy” is an enjoyable comedy with many slapstick gags and an attention to character development.  And one of the many films included in the wonderful “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” DVD Box Set.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © MMV New Line Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Grandma’s Boy (from the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection DVD Box Set)

THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: 1922

DURATION: 56 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Full Screen, Dolby Digital, B&W, Subtitles: Spanish

COMPANY: New Line Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2005

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer

Story by Hal Roach, Sam Taylor, Jean C. Havez

Titles by H.M. Walker

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes

Producer: Hal Roach, Jeffrey Vance

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Music: Robert Israel

Cinematography: Walter Lundin

Edited by Thomas J. Crizer

Starring:

Harold Lloyd as The Boy

Mildred Davis as The Girl

Anna Townsend as His Grandma

Charles Stevenson as His Rival/Union General

Dick Sutherland as The Rolling Stone

Noah Young as Sheriff of Dabney County

Having appeared in more than 200 films and widely considered to be one of cinema’s most respected comic geniuses, Harold Lloyd was one of Hollywood’s first true movie stars. Now, entertainment enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the work of the man who inspired generations of acting greats with The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection.

Harold Lloyd, one of the three kings of silent film comedy.

Known for his physical comedy and the man with the eyeglasses, Lloyd’s comedies were enjoyable and similar to Keaton, Lloyd had the flair of doing his own stuntwork and when one is to watch his films today, there were a few films that literally makes people gasp and made you wonder, “how did he do that?”.

But then there were films which relied on comedy but also chemistry.  The 1922 film “Grandma’s Boy” was one of those films that showcased the wonderful chemistry between Harold Lloyd and the leading lady who would later become his wife, Mildred Davis.

“Grandma’s Boy” was hailed as Lloyd’s first five part feature and for many Lloyd fans today, many see this classic film as a wonderful demonstration of a film featuring slapstick gags and character development.

The film revolves around Harold Lloyd as Grandma’s Boy, a boy who never stood up to his bullies and for the most part, was seen as meek and cowardly.

But despite many people thinking of him that certain way, one girl (played by Mildred Davis) didn’t.  And because of that, grandma’s boy has always cared for the girl and wants to woo her.

Unfortunately, his rival (played by Charles Stevenson) is one that has always bullied him and also has sights towards the girl.

One day as grandma’s boy has tried to woo the girl, the rival pushes him over a well and thus shrinking his clothes.

Not wanting the girl to see him in wet, shrunken clothes, grandma’s boy heads home dejected.  His caring grandmother has always wanted her grandson to be brave but not sure how she can get him to stand up for himself.  When he arrives back home, she notices a tramp (a term to describe a homeless man) reading a newspaper at their home.  She asks her grandson to get him to leave their property.

But because grandma’s boy is afraid, he tries to get the family dog to scare him away, but instead, it aggravates the tramp to the point that he wants to hurt grandma’s boy.  Fortunately, grandma is around with her umbrella to help her grandson.

Meanwhile, the tramp heads into town and tries to steal jewelry by breaking the glass window.  As men try to stop him, he pulls out a gun and shoots one of the men.

Immediately, the tramp becomes a wanted man and the sheriff requests that all men also become a sheriff to capture the tramp.  Unfortunately, they are one short of a badge and so, grandma’s boy doesn’t get one.  But seeing this as an opportunity for him to be closer to the girl, the rival gives his badge to grandma’s boy who now must help the other men capture the Tramp.

The grandma’s boy is so afraid to be part of the group that must hunt down the sheriff but he knows that the girl is proud of him for doing so.  Afraid and cowardly, his grandmother doesn’t like seeing him this way.  So she tells him a story about his grandfather who was also a coward and had to fight in the Civil War, but because he had this good luck charm, he was able to take on the Union Army and complete his mission.

And now, grandma’s boy has been given his grandfather’s good luck charm.  Believing in the charm, now grandma’s boy feels confident that he will have what it takes to catch the tramp but also, win the girl’s affection.  Can he do it?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

Where many film stars lost control over their films or their films were destroyed by fires (the nitrate of the film in which silent movies were shot with would catch on fire – such as FOX losing nearly 90% of all silent films due to massive fire) or have some severe acid decay, Lloyd was pretty smart in that he had control over his films and instead of having others watch over his films, he had his films stored via lock and key, fireproofed but most importantly during the ’60s, transferring the film to a better film stock.

So, the 1922 film “Grandma’s Boy” looks very good.  Granted, you can see slight scratches but there are no signs of film warping, nitrate degradation or any major problems.  Overall, “Grandma’s Boy” looks very good for a film that is  90-years-old.

As for audio, there is a wonderful score by Robert Israel (presented in Dolby Digital) which fits absolutely remarkably with what is seen onscreen.   I haven’t heard Don Hulette’s 1974 score, so I can’t compare the two scores, but I will say that Robert Israel’s 2002 score which was used for this DVD is fantastic.

The film has English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are production notes on DVD disc 2 and DVD-rom features (all I found was a DVD player to watch films on PC or Mac).

Harold Lloyd is one of silent film’s greatest stars and one of the three kings that many people have probably not heard about.

Many have heard of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton but many ask, “who is Harry Lloyd?”.  Part of the reason why people have not heard much of Lloyd is because he had major control over his films. Where as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton had an awesome career during the silent era, their films were distributed on video courtesy of the studio and they didn’t have total control of their work.  Lloyd was very smart in the fact that he took control of his work, preserved it and also didn’t sell it cheap to just anyone, and thus many companies couldn’t afford his asking price. But Lloyd wanted to make sure that his films received it’s worth.

Granted, at the same time, because his films were not as distributed over decades like Chaplin or Keaton films, not many people have seen them.

Even in 2012, there have not been periodic releases of Lloyd films such as Chaplin or Keaton films that have made it onto Blu-ray.  Many Harold Lloyd fans wonder if there will be any future releases especially a heavily anticipated part two of the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection DVD set.

So, there are over 300 films of Harold Lloyd that many have not seen. The good news is that his 1922 silent comedy “Grandma’s Boy” featuring Lloyd and his future wife, Mildred Davis is included with this box set.

“Grandma’s Boy” is a film that showcases Lloyd’s amazing use of comedy, may it be facial expressions, gags and also a sight of a grown man with shrunken pants and suit is just hilarious to watch.  The gags still hold up quite well today and for the most part, it’s a charming comedy tale that is straightforward, easily accessible and just fun to watch!

While Lloyd is wonderful in the film, the cast also does a wonderful job.  Mildred Davis looks absolutely ravishing and does a wonderful job playing the girl interested in Grandma’s Boy, Charles Stevenson is wonderful in playing the brutish rival and Dick Sutherland, with his acromegalic features, looked threatening as the tramp/rolling stone.  And Anna Townsend as grandma, she is always great playing the caring mother or grandmother in Harold Lloyd’s films.

And in terms of picture quality, for this DVD, “Grandma’s Boy” is presented on a double-sided DVD disc and is shared with two other films on one side of a DVD.  Picture quality is very good considering that “Grandma’s Boy” is 90-years-old.  Can it be better?  Sure, if Harold Lloyd’s work ever receives the HD treatment and is released on Blu-ray.  But considering how difficult it is for his work to be even released on DVD, one can only hope that Lloyd joins Chaplin and Keaton is receiving a Blu-ray release, seeing how their silent films have looked fantastic in HD.

Overall, “Grandma’s Boy” is a fun and enjoyable comedy but the good news is that it is one of the many wonderful Harold Lloyd films included in the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” DVD Box Set!

If you want to experience Harold Lloyd’s films, this DVD box set is highly recommended!

(Note: Review is for film not the complete DVD box set)


March of the Wooden Soldiers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” is a Laurel & Hardy classic that arrives just in time on Blu-ray for the holidays.  With its budget price and the amount of special features plus the fact that you get both B/W and color versions of the film is awesome!  Definitely recommended for Laurel & Hardy fans!

Images courtesy of © 2006 Legend Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Babes in Toyland)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1934

DURATION: 77 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1), English 2.0 Mono, B&W and Color Versions

COMPANY: Legend Films, Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: September 14, 2010

Directed by Gus Meins, Charley Rogers

Based on the Book by Glen MacDonough

Screenplay by Frank Butler and Nick Grinde

Libretto by Anna Alice Chapin

Produced by Hal Roach

Cinematography by Francis Corby, Art Lloyd

Edited by Bert Jordan, William H. Terhune

Starring:

Stan Laurel as Stannie Dum

Oliver Hardy as Ollie Dee

Virginia Karns as Mother Goose

Charlotte Henry as Little Bo-Peep

Felix Knight as Tom-Tom Piper

Florence Roberts as Mother Widow Peep

Henry Brandon as Silas Barnaby

Imagine an enchanted fantasy world of timeless characters and magical moments where nothing goes right for the clumsy toymakers, Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee.  When notorious scoundrel, Barnaby demands to marry the beautiful Little Bo Peep, guess who secretly emerges as the bride?  Based on the original “Babes in Toyland” this movie is a dazzling spectacle of 6-foot wooden soldiers, Mother Goose characters and the beloved team of Laurel & Hardy.

“Babes in Toyland” or known to many as “March of the Wooden Soldiers” has been an annual Christmas film that has been shown on television for decades.  Many people have grown up with this Laurel & Hardy classic and now, the 1934 film gets its re-released on Blu-ray via two restored versions in its original black and white and utilizing Legend Films colorization process.

As for the two different titles, back in 1934 when “Babes in Toyland” was released, in 1948 for its re-released by Lippert Pictures, the film was edited down to 73-minutes and for years, many people have watched this version of the film.  For this re-released version, the version included on Blu-ray is a 77-minute version but instead of using “Babes in Toyland”, Legend Films has opted to use “March of the Wooden Soldiers”.

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” is based on the libretto by Glen MacDonough and for the film adaptation directed by Gus Meins and Charley Rogers and a screenplay adaptation by Frank Butler and Nick Grinde, the film takes place in Toyland where many fairy tale characters live.

In a shoe lives the family which include Mother Peep (played by Florence Roberts), her two songs Stannie Dum (played by Stan Laurel), Ollie Dee (played by Oliver Hardy) and her daughter Little Bo-Peep (played by Charlotte Henry).  The day has been quite rough for the family as the mortgage owner for the home that they live in, owned by the villainous Silas Barnaby (played by Henry Brandon) threatens Mother Peep that he will kick them out of the house if he doesn’t not receive the mortgage payment.    Meanwhile, Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep and can not find them.

To help calm their mother down, Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee tell their mother that they will ask for an advance from the Toymaker that they work for.  But while at work, the clumsy brothers debate on who will ask their boss about a payment advance but the toymaker is not in the mood to hear anything from them.

As Santa Claus has stop by to check his order, Santa has ordered wooden soldiers for the children.  The problem is that Stan has accidentally taken Santa’s order wrong and made the toymakers create 100 wooden soldiers at six feet tall but Santa wanted 600 soldiers at one foot tall.  To make matters worse, when both Stannie and Ollie activate one of the six foot soldiers, it goes amok and destroys the toymakers workshop and they are fired from their job.

As for Little Bo-Peep, she continues to look for her sheep, as do others in Toyland…but fortunately Tom-Tom Piper (played by Felix Knight), who has always been smitten by Bo-Peep promises he will do all it takes to find them and confesses his love for her.  The sheep return and the two decide to get married.  But watching them from afar is Silas Barnaby who comes up with an idea.

Silas returns to Mother Widow Peep for his money and when she finds out that Stannie and Ollie could not get the money to pay off the mortgage, he gives Mother Widow Peep a choice.  He will drop the mortgage if he marries Little Bo-Peep. Bo-Peep has no intention of marrying Silas but with the threat of losing her home, she feels that she has no choice.

But Stannie and Ollie come up with a plan to prevent Bo-Peep from marrying Silas Barnaby.  But will it work?

VIDEO:

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” is presented in 1080p (1:33:1) and is the first Blu-ray release from Legend Films.  Bare in mind that this film is available in public domain but this is probably the best version of the film to own at this time.  I have seen others who have said the MGM Holiday boxset with the film on DVD is much better but seriously, with the Blu-ray release having a much higher bitrate, the Blu-ray version is the better looking of the two.

I’ve heard people complain that there are no blacks and only grays.  I saw blacks but is the contrast perfect… No.  Is it fantastic as other bigger companies or the Criterion Collection have invested in their classic films?  No, but the fact that Legend Films is getting involved in the Blu-ray scene, with their first release, this is where they get to learn what people want to see on Blu-ray, especially since they have done several classics as I would love to see them bring out “My Man Godfrey” on Blu-ray.

As for the colorization of the film, if there is one thing that Legend Films excels at and that is their colorization process.  I tend to dislike black and white films being colorized especially the way Turner did their colorization back in the early ’90s but Legend Films uses better technology and so far, watching “My Man Godfrey” on DVD and now watching “March of the Wooden Soldiers” on Blu-ray, I’m quite content with their colorization.  They do a fantastic job!  Now whether or not the clothing and hair is accurate, I don’t know.  But I know for “My Man Godfrey”, they did the research of what colors the costumes were and I would assume they would have done the same type of research on this release.

With that being said, I still prefer the black and white version of the film.

AUDIO:

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” is presented in Dolby Digital Mono but seeing they put 2.0 mono, I’m assuming that they meant stereo or putting two mono tracks to the left and right speaker.  Nevertheless, dialogue and music is clear and heard no major pops or hissing during the film.

You will hear some degradation with some of the classic shorts in the special features.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” features the following special features:

  • Origintal Theatrical Trailer – Featuring the B&W and color trailers for “March of the Wooden Soldiers” plus trailers for “A Christmas Wish”, “Beyond Christmas” and “The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection”.
  • Christmas Trailer Gallery
  • Bonus Animated Movie: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – (8:28) A classic Rudolph Technicolor animated short.
  • Rare Laurel & Hardy Short Film – (4:45) A Department of Agriculture Laurel & Hardy environmental colored short from the ’50s.
  • Christmas Toyshop – (9:18) A B&W Christmas short from the ’30s or ’40s (part live/part animated).   Two kids who are excited about Christmas wakeup to find Santa Claus in their living room.
  • Howdy Doody’s Christmas Special - (7:18)  Howdy Doody and friends in a Christmas short.
  • Christmas ’45 Theater Greeting - (:50) Christmas 1945 theater greeting.
  • A Message from Santa - (:36) A quick message from Santa.
  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – (8:05) A Castle Films B&W short featuring Santa delivering his toys on Christmas.
  • Merry Christmas – (8:49) A Castle Films B&W short about Santa Claus and the elves working at Santa’s toy workshop.
  • Jingle Bells – (2:08) A color classic sing-along .
  • Classic Toy Commercials – (8:53) Classic toy commercials that are an interesting but enjoyable addition to this Blu-ray release.
  • The Little Rascals Happy New Year Greeting – (:28) Featuring a greeting from the Little Rascals singing “Happy New Year to you”.

When it comes to Laurel & Hardy, fans have felt that Americans have gotten the shaft when other countries especially the UK have received wonderful Laurel & Hardy DVD releases (especially the wonderful Universal Laurel & Hardy DVD box set).  Sure we have had the lost Laurel & Hardy DVD set (which came out and then made out of print) and there are a few movies released on DVD.

But when it comes to Blu-ray releases, it’s one thing to get Chaplin or Keaton on Blu-ray but for Laurel & Hardy, no one ever knows if any of Hal Roach-related releases such as Laurel and Hardy,  Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase or Little Rascals releases will ever be released on Blu-ray, so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised and also a bit giddy that there was a Laurel and Hardy film set for release on Blu-ray courtesy of Legend Films.  One, we are getting a popular Christmas classic in black and white and color but also, Legend Films are now taking their first step in High Definition.

And I was very surprised to find out that this Blu-ray release was going for less than $10.  It’s important to note that Legend Films are nowhere near Criterion Collection or KINO status but they do have the potential to become fan favorites for classic movie and TV show fans because of the titles they have released on DVD thus far.  In fact, “March of the Wooden Soldiers” is a pretty solid release for its price.  Not only do you get a pretty good B&W release, you also get a colorized version and when it comes to colorization, Legend Films excels at it.

Sure, the company has taken on many titles that were released on public domain but compared to other companies that also take on PD titles, Legend Films has a solid track record for releasing solid black and white and solid colorization of restored films.  And the fact that they are releasing on Blu-ray does make me happy.

I know that a few people have said that they did not see and blacks and their blacks were grays.  In my experience, that was not the case, so I’m guessing depending on your setup, it’s all subjective.  But compare to the MGM release years ago (from the MGM Holiday Classics DVD box set), I still feel this Blu-ray release tops it in picture quality.

Also, I was surprised to see so many classic Christmas special features added to this release as well and although many have nothing to do with Laurel & Hardy, they do take place around the same time period that the duo were still performing onscreen.  Personally, I thought it was cool to see the Little Rascals singing a Christmas message, especially singing the classic Holiday shorts.

Overall, “March of the Wooden Soldiers” was a pleasant surprise as I was not expecting Legend Films to release on Blu-ray but I’m glad they have.  Laurel & Hardy’s “Babes in Toyland” (March of the Wooden Soldiers) is ingrained in the heads of many generations of viewers as a Christmas classic that it was perfect timing for this Blu-ray release and also to add, a pleasant surprise as I purchased this Blu-ray for under $10.

If you enjoyed this classic, it’s definitely recommended on Blu-ray especially at the very low price you can find it for.  And I hope that this is a signal that more Legend Films releases will be on Blu-ray in the near future.  Laurel & Hardy fans, this release is recommended!

Laurel & Hardy: A Chump at Oxford and Related Shorts v.1 (as part of the Laurel & Hardy: The Collection) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A wonderful inclusion to the awesome 21-volume “Laurel & Hardy: The Collection” DVD Boxset, “Laurel & Hardy: A Chump at Oxford” features the much longer and much better European 62-minute version of their 1940 film. Volume 1 also includes one silent short and one talkie short as well!

Images courtesy of © 1928-1940 CCA. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Laurel & Hardy: A Chump at Oxford and Related Shorts v.1 (as part of the Laurel & Hardy: The Collection)

YEAR OF FILM & SHORT RELEASE: A Chump at Oxford (1940), From Soup to Nuts (1928), Another Fine Mess (1930)

DURATION: A Chump at Oxford (1:00:57), From Soup to Nuts (18:41), Another Fine Mess (1930)

DVD INFORMATION: Region 2 (PAL), 4:3, Black and White and Color, English subtitles

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2004

A Chump at Oxford

Directed by Alfred J. Goulding

Original Story and Screenplay by Charles Rogers, Felix Adler and Harry Langdon

Produced by Hal Roach

Associate Producer: Hal Roach Jr.

Music by Marvin Hatley

Cinematography by Art Lloyd

Edited by Bert Jordan

Art Direction: Charles D. Hall

Set Decoration by William Stevens

From to Soup to Nuts

Directed by Edgar Kennedy

Written by Leo McCarey, H.M. Walker

Produced by Hal Roach

Cinematography by Len Powers

Edited by Richard C. Currier

“Another Fine Mess”

Directed by James Parrott

Based on the play “Home from the Honeymoon” by Arthur J. Jefferson

Dialogue by H.M. Walker

Produced by Hal Roach

Cinematography by Jack Stevens

Edited by Richard C. Currier

“A Chump at Oxford”

Starring:

Stan Laurel as Stan/Lord Paddington

Oliver Hardy as Ollie

Forrester Harvey as Meredith

Wilfred Lucas as Dean Williams

Forbes Murray as Banker

Frank Baker as Dean’s Servant

Eddie Borden as Student Ghost

Gerald Rogers as Student Johnson

Victor Kendall as Student Cecil

Gerald Fielding as Student Brown

Charlie Hall as Studen Hector

Peter Cushing as Student Jones

“From Soup to Nuts”

Starring:

Stan Laurel as Hired Butler

Oliver Hardy as Hired Butler

Dorothy Coburn as Party Guest

Buddy the Dog as Dog

Otto Fries as Chef

Anita Garvin as Mrs. Culpepper

“Another Fine Mess”

Starring:

Stan Laurel as Stan

Oliver Hardy as Ollie

Thelma Todd as Lady Plumtree

James Finlayson as Colonel Wilburforce Buckshot

Charles K. gerrard as Lord Leopold Ambrose Plumtree

One of Laurel & Hardy’s best-loved featured films, “A Chump at Oxford” sees them traveling to England to obtain an education, only for Stand to be revealed as a long-lost British aristocrat! Also, included is the classic silent comedy from “Soup to Nuts”, which the team remade as a section of “A Chump at Oxford” only with Stan switching the character to that of “Agnes”, the maid! Also, in this compilation is an earlier glimpsed of “Agnes” in one of their greatest talkie shorts, “Another Fine Mess”.

When it comes to Laurel and Hardy, many fans have of the comedy duo have been waiting for many of their shorts and films to be released on DVD in the U.S.

The good news is that many of the shorts have been released courtesy of Image Entertainment on DVD, the bad news is that these out-of-print and are very hard to find and if you don’t find them, expect to pay a lot of money for them.

While some companies have released Laurel & Hardy shorts and films (some in worse condition than others), in 2004, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a magnificent box set featuring 21 volumes of “Laurel & Hardy” with many of their films and shorts shot during 1920-1940.   The good news, as of 2010, this magnificent box set can be purchased for a pretty low price these days.  The bad news (for those in America), it’s only available in the UK and for some reason, Universal has passed on releasing this set in the U.S.  Which is truly unfortunate and thus many Laurel and Hardy fans have been purchasing the PAL release from Amazon UK (which has dropped in price considerably since its initial release) and watching them via an all-region player (which are sold quite cheap at Target and Wal-Mart stores).

In the first volume, we get the feature extended version of the film “A Chump at Oxford”.  In the US, the film was released as a “streamlined feature” running 42 minutes long.  For the European simultaneous release, a 20-minute prologue was added and the version on this DVD release is the 62 minute version.

“A Chump at Oxford” is about a group of two men looking for a job.  Unfortunately, each job they get, they end up screwing things up and as quickly as they get a job, as quickly they lose it.  Both realize that they need more education to get better jobs and vow to go back to school.  But first, they need to eat lunch.  So, as they sit outside of a bank and eat lunch.  Stan throws a banana right near the steps of the door.

Not knowing that inside the bank, the bank is being held up by a robber.  As the robber tries to make his escape, he slips on the banana peel and ends up falling on Laurel and Hardy.  The two grab on to him until the police come and they are hailed as heroes.   The bank offers them jobs but they tell the bank manager that before they can work, they need to go back to school and get an education.  So, the bank decides to send them to the most prestigious college for an education, Oxford University.  But will Oxford be ready for Laurel & Hardy?

For “From Soup to Nuts”, this silent short is about Laurel and Hardy getting a job as butlers.  With a party taking place, the two try their best to serve the posh guests food but Oliver gets on Stan’s bad side and the two end up trying to compete with each other on who can give the best service.  Unfortunately, even for Laurel and Hardy, they always find ways to screw it up.

For “Another Fine Mess”, Laurel and Hardy call a police officer names and now they are being chased by him.  The two end up running and hiding at the residence of Colonel Wilburforce Buckshot (who is gone on vacation) and now, Hardy pretends to be Colonel Buckshot and Laurel pretends to be a servant and try to entertain the guests of Colonel Buckshot.  But both are unaware that Colonel Buckshot is returning back home from his traveling.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“A Chump at Oxford” is presented in restored black and white and also computer-colored version.  The picture quality for “A Chump at Oxford” is actually very good for this 70-year-old film.  Dialogue is clear and detected no severe hissing.

“From Soup to Nuts” is a silent presented in 4:3, black and white.  The quality is not great but considering that this short is over 80-years-old, I have seen worse quality with some other silent films.  But it does have interlacing issues.  As for audio, music is played, actually the music is is very noticeable with Hal Roach’s “Little Rascals” shorts.  Audio is fine ala monaural.

“Another Fine Mess” has its share of flickering and scratches and dust is seen on the print but it’s not that bad compared to the fading/interlacing print of “From Soup to Nuts”.

As for the colorized version, I am not sure if the colorization is spot on but truthfully, it’s not as good as the Legend Films colorization and is reminiscent of the colorization of the 1990′s in which you can detect that black and white a little from the characters and colors don’t seem as natural.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

These Laurel & Hardy DVD releases from Universal do not come with special features but they do include colorized versions of the feature films.

Laurel and Hardy are one of the most amazing comedy duo’s from the silent and talkies era.   It’s unfortunate that with a duo who has such an impressive career, there has not been solid treatment for many of their films and shorts in the US.  Granted, we have a handful of releases from TCM, Legend and KINO which are still available but yet, a lot of their silent work and classic films have not been released on DVD yet and those that have been released, the DVD’s are out of print and are extremely costly.

With that being said, after waiting for years to see if an American version of this box set would be released in America, I have given up.  It’s more than likely this won’t be released and if it does, it would probably be part of Universal’s DVD on demand via their “Vault Series” ala DVD-R.  So, if you want these Laurel & Hardy shorts and films all in one box set which cost around $41 (US), you can definitely take advantage of it’s lowest price point (again…21 DVD’s).

Although these DVD’s are not being released via chronological order and are released on a theme, I still am very grateful for these Laurel and Hardy releases and for the first volume “A Chump at Oxford” is just a hilarious film.  And the prologue added to the European release is actually makes the film even more entertaining and it also includes a newer version of what they did in their silent film “From Soup to Nuts” incorporate into the film.  And the fact that you get the silent short included on this first volume is also awesome as well.

But going back to “A Chump at Oxford”, although I have always enjoyed their silent film work, I really enjoy their talkies and feature films that really explore the group’s comedy, physical comedy and literally show us why they were one of the greatest comedy duo’s of all time.  With our without the prologue, it’s just hilarious to watch.  As we see the students pranking Laurel & Hardy in a maze and then having a ghost chasing them around.  Another scene in which Laurel gets bonked in the head and goes from the dumbwitted character to the very intelligent and not afraid to fight (and long lost) hero of Oxford.  The way how things played out and how many sight gags there are is just a testament to their comedy and what a wonderful way to start off their collection by starting off with this first film.

“Another Fine Mess” is a good classic Laurel & Hardy short and wonderful addition to this first volume although not really related to the theme but more of an extra short to add to the disc.  Although not my favorite Laurel & Hardy short, I do enjoy the chase scenes through early Los Angeles.

The first volume DVD does not come with any special features but considering that you get one feature film and two shorts is awesome and then as an extra incentive, you do get the colorized versions of “A Chump at Oxford” and “Another Fine Mess”.  Although, personally, I could care less about these colorized versions as it looks more like ’90s colorization, not well-done and personally, I feel that this takes even more space on a DVD and would rather see them dedicate better video (higher bitrate) towards the black and white original releases.

Overall, “Laurel & Hardy: A Chump at Oxford and Related Shorts v.1″ is an entertaining Laurel & Hardy release but I highly recommend purchasing “the Laurel & Hardy: The Collection” box set for all 21 DVD volumes than the single volume as you get more for your money.  A wonderful inclusion to the DVD Box set!’

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