Top

The First Kings of Comedy Collection (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

For those wanting to learn about silent films, specifically slapstick comedy, “The First Kings of Comedy Collection” may not be the best source on the subject, but it still does a good job of introducing you to a few of the silent comedy’s best through a compilation of videos featuring those talents.  Featuring two documentaries from 1957 (The Golden Age of Comedy) and 1960 (When Comedy Was King), for a DVD that costs under $10, it’s definitely worth it!

Images courtesy of © 2007 RHI Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: The First Kings of Comedy Collection

YEAR OF FILM: 1957 (The Golden Age of Comedy), 1960 (When Comedy Was King)

DURATION: The Golden Age of Comedy (1:18:50)/When Comedy Was King (1:21:43)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Standard Definition, Dolby Digital

COMPANY: Genius Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: 2007

Directed by Robert  Youngson

Music composed and conducted by George Steiner (The Golden Age of Comedy)

Orchestrated by Ted Royal and Charles Cooke (When Comedy Was King)

Orchestra Conducted by Sylvan Levin) (When Comedy Was King)

Associate Producer: Herbert R. Gelbspan

Narrated by Dwight Weist

Featuring archived footage of:

Charlie Chaplin

Buster Keaton

Fatty Arbuckle

Keystone Cops

Mabel Normand

Stan Laurel

Oliver Hardy

Charley Chase

Jean Harlow

Harry Langdon

Wallace Beery

Edgar Kennedy

Carole Lombard

Will Rogers

Gloria Swanson

Billy Bevan

Ben Turpin

Ford Sterling

Mack Sennett

Snub Pollard

Anita Garvin

Marion Byron

The Sennett Girls

The First Kings Of Comedy Collection is a timeless tribute to the era of slapstick comedy and all the uproarious comedians who built the comedy genre. The collection consists of two great feature-length compilations, The Golden Age Of Comedy and When Comedy Was King. From documentary producer Robert Youngson and the Hal Roach studios The First Kings Of Comedy Collection preserves some of the greatest moments in comedy lore and pays special tribute to all of the silent era’s greatest clowns, including Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Will Rogers, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Charley Chase, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and Harry Langdon.

Throughout the ’40s through the ’60s, documentarian Robert Youngson would create documentaries on the days gone by.  From early mechanics, early technology to early sporting events.  But in the late ’50s, Youngson would create two documentaries on the silent film era.

Two films that would pay tribute to the stars of yesteryear and also expose silent films to a generation of Americans who were not familiar with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Harry Langdon to name a few.

In 1957, Youngson would create “The Golden Age of Comedy” and in 1959 “When Comedy Was King”.  Documentaries which would introduce the silent comedians of that time and feature clips from their silent short films or their feature films while providing narrative and information on the talent, their popularity of the time and also their troubles.

In “Golden Age of Comedy”, Youngson would focus on Mack Sennett, Laurel and Hardy, Will Rogers, Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow, Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, the animals of the silent era and more.

In “When Comedy Was King”, Youngson focused on The Good Old Days with Charlie Chaplin,  the Immortal Baby with Harry Langdon, Hal Roach, The Great Stone Face with Buster Keaton, The Wacky World of Mack Sennett, The Fiddle and the Bow with Laurel and Hardy.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

Both “The Golden Age of Comedy” and “When Comedy Was King” are provided in standard definition, black and white.  Fortunately, the clips that are featured on both films are in good condition, no scenes with film warping or excessive damage were featured.

Audio in presented in Dolby Digital with music, sound effects and narrative by Robert Youngson.  Dialogue is clear and understandable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features included on this DVD.

Back in the late ’50s, Robert Youngson’s tribute to the silent film comedians/slapstick comedy in his two films “The Golden Age of Comedy” and “When Comedy Was King” was well-received at the time.

Youngson, a documentarian who was passionate about things from the older days, did his part in making sure that people don’t forget the silent stars, America’s first popular talent and piecing together archived short film and feature film footage to showcase these talents. It’s literally a compilation film with sound effects, music and narration by Dwight Weist.

And while many silent film fans would recommend the amazing Kevin Brownlow and David Gill documentary “Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film” created back in 1980, the problem is finding a copy of this release that will not hurt your pocketbook as it is out-of-print and sold by third party for an expensive price.

So, unless you have several hundred dollars to spend on VHS (which may be in bad condition) or the LD release (if you have an LD player), finding excellent documentaries on silent films are hard to come by.

With the release of “The First Kings of Comedy Collection”, you get both of Robert Youngson’s comedy silent film documentaries on one DVD and if you are not familiar with a few of  the silent film comedians, the documentary does make a good primer and if you like what you see, you can search out the silent film DVD’s of these talents on Amazon or ask questions to the knowledgeable silent film fans of Nitraville.com.

With that being said, for those who are knowledgeable about silent films, then these individuals will be most perturbed by the lack of inclusion of one of the silent comedy kings, Harold Lloyd.  And for Harold Lloyd fans, the lack of inclusion of Lloyd is a disservice.  Why wasn’t he included?  Was it difficult to get permission to use footage for this documentary?  Or perhaps, Robert Youngson didn’t care for Lloyd?  We’ll never know.  But because of this, some people may feel both documentaries are good primers but not exactly complete.

The other negative for some is that the documentaries are reminiscent of those old ’50s films you would watch in class.  In other words, some may find the narration dated.

But it all comes down to one’s preference.  For me, I could care less if the narrator sounds dated, these two are late ’50s/early ’60s documentaries after all.  I would rather have the original narrator, Dwight Weist’s narration than have a redub in a modern setting with new music.  I found these two films fine as is.

And speaking of the narration, once again, this is subjective on the viewer of how they feel about it.  It’s one thing to read people complain about how the narrator sounds dated but to read complaints of how narrator Dwight Weist sounds too enthusiastic about what he is discussing is a non-issue for me.  If anything, hearing the narrator enthusiastic about the subject matter, made the documentaries lively and fun.  For others, some prefer a more academic or perhaps dry narration.

And last, the fact is that there is focus primarily on Max Sennett and Hal Roach Studios for the archived footage featured.  Because comedy in the 1920′s is widespread and many will have their favorites, some may have a problem with the subject matter being too limited, focusing on talent that are well-known and popular.   While Chaplin and Keaton are featured in this documentary, some may feel that there is not enough.

One can suspect that because most people tend to focus on Chaplin and Keaton, this was probably Youngson’s way of exposing people not familiar to silent films of other talents out there beyond Chaplin and Keaton.  While I’m not sure how many silent films were accessible to audiences during the late ’50s or ’60s as opposed to the revival of silent films in the ’70s, I would imagine that a lot of silent film festivals probably had more access to films starring Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and Hal Roach films.

I will say that “The First Kings of Comedy Collection” was a DVD that made me want to search out the films that I have never seen before but were featured on the DVD.  For example, I have many Carole Lombard films in my DVD collection, but I do not have any of her silent films.  The same goes with Jean Harlow and also for a few of the Hal Roach Studios films that do not star Harold Lloyd or the kids of “Little Rascals” (both which were not featured in either documentary).

But watching these two documentaries did make me want to watch more Laurel & Hardy, more Ben Turpin, more Hal Roach films like the 1929 film “A Pair of Tights” and hopefully others will be inspired to search out these films or shorts featuring these talent after watching the two documentaries.

While this DVD does makes a good primer for beginners, I also recommend people to read any of Kevin Brownlow’s books especially “The Parades Gone By” (and other silent film books available today).  But until Brownlow’s “Hollywood” is ever released on DVD, a beginner wanting a primer on silent comedy can easily enjoy the two documentaries featured in “The First Kings of Comedy Collection”.  It may not be for everyone but  if you are curious about the subject matter,  “The First Kings of Comedy Collection” is also a DVD that can be found for under $10 these days.

Overall, “The First Kings of Comedy Collection” is a recommended set of two documentaries that can satisfy beginners to slapstick comedy but also for those who want to experience two documentaries that possibly inspired many audiences to become silent film fans during that era in time.


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!’

Bottom