Laurel and Hardy DVD Collection

Review Format:

DVD

While most can claim to have heard of Laurel and Hardy, there are many who have never seen the legendary comedic duo in action.

Starting off in silent movies, the double act relied on slapstick comedy and visual gags to tell their stories. With an innocent, almost cartoon-like disposition, the duo bumbled their way into increasingly calamitous situations. Wearing trademark suits and hats, they established popular catch phrases such as Oliver Hardy’s ‘That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into’. Their onscreen chemistry and comic timing earned Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy Worldwide acclaim. In 1932 they earned an Oscar for the short film ‘The Music Box’, which cemented their position as comedy legends.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Laurel and Hardy’s first spoken film, Universal are releasing a series of twenty DVD’s packed with features and short films. Each DVD offers both the original black and white prints, plus colour versions of each film to enjoy. Compiled by the UK’s leading Laurel and Hardy expert Glenn Mitchell, each disc is arranged by a shared theme. The twenty discs are available to buy separately. However, if you purchase the entire collection in a box set, you will be treated to a special bonus disc, which is unavailable in shops.

Highlights include ‘Country Hospital’ from Disc 2, where Ollie is recuperating in hospital after breaking his leg. All is well until Stan arrives with his get-well nuts and hard-boiled eggs. Before long, Ollie is hanging from the ceiling by his broken limb, anchored by a doctor who has fallen out of the window. Worth noting is an amusing driving sequence, where they stage an unconvincing car chase in front of a shaky projection screen. Innovative in its day, the effect is now unintentionally funny, and adds extra enjoyment to the episode.

In ‘Should Married Men Go Home’ on Disc 7, Ollie brings Laurel home to surprise his wife for dinner. The surprise soon turns into disaster, as Mrs Hardy refuses to cook for their guest, and be treated as a slave. After her dramatic departure (set to music), Ollie decides to try and cook himself, and almost sets the house on fire. Special mention should also be made to the episode ‘Blockheads’ where Stan Laurel is found stood at his post in a trench, 20 years after the War has ended.

Concluding the series is Disc 20, which features eight shorts including the unforgettable ‘Angora Love’. In this black and white silent feature, Stan befriends a goat that is wanted by the police. Unable to shake off the woolly companion, they reluctantly allow him to stay in their room. Soon he has started chewing up the furniture, and Stan inadvertently gains the attention of the sleepless landlord. While a minimum of words is conveyed using onscreen text, the short demonstrates Laurel and Hardy’s expressive ability to put across a story without spoken dialogue. A reactive musical score akin to that of a Tom and Jerry cartoon further complements the action, almost as a character in its own right.

The supporting cast in each episode have unique eccentricities, which bring out the worst, or indeed best, out of Laurel and Hardy. Charley Hall is particularly memorable for his role in ‘Tit for Tat’, where he plays an increasingly irate shopkeeper. Crossing paths with Stan and Laurel on the opening of their new electrical shop, they become embattled in an escalating conflict, with humorous consequences.

Much of the footage has never been released before in the UK and makes for a long overdue debut on DVD. The picture quality is superb, and the footage was thankfully well maintained over the last 75 years. The audio track is good for the most part, but reveals a mild hissing if played through a Dolby 5.1 system. The dialogue is well preserved, and audibly clear at all times.

With over 68 hours of footage, this timeless collection is a must-have for Laurel and Hardy fans, and recommended viewing for anyone who appreciates classic slapstick comedy at its finest.

The Laurel and Hardy Collection comprises of:

1. A Chump At Oxford / Related Shorts
2. Classic Shorts / Someone's Ailing
3. Way Out West / Shorts
4. Classic Shorts / Ollie And Matrimony
5. Our Relations / Dual Roles Shorts
6. Classic Shorts / Murder In The Air
7. Blockheads / Themed Shorts
8. Classic Shorts / Blackmail
9. The Bohemian Girl / Related Shorts
10. Classic Shorts / Be Big / Laughing Gravy
11. Saps At Sea / Themed Shorts
12. Classic Shorts / Laurel And Hardy And The Law
13. Sons Of The Desert / Related Shorts
14. Classic Shorts / A Job To Do
15. Pack Up Your Troubles / Related Shorts
16. Classic Shorts / Maritime Adventures
17. Swiss Miss / Animal Shorts
18. Classic Shorts / Married Life
19. Pardon Us / One Prison Short
20. Classic Shorts / More Brushes With The Law
21. Bonus disc: Brats (alternative version) / A Tribute To The Boys / Hinter Schloss Und Riegel / Prudence / Thundering Fleas / Fluttering Hearts

Final Score:

10 out of 10

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