“ Genre: Comedy - Stand-Up / Theatrical Release: 1940 / Universal, suitable for all / Director: Alfred Goulding / Actors: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Forrester Harvey, Wilfred Lucas, Forbes Murray ... / DVD released 2006-10-02 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: Black & White, PAL „
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This is a Laurel & Hardy compilation DVD that gives you the feature length picture A Chump at Oxford in addition to a couple of shorts - From Soup to Nuts and Another Fine Mess. I don't know if Laurel & Hardy are starting to become slightly forgotten now as their films rarely seem to be on television but I think their work is still funny and of course always warm and likeable. Films like Sons of the Desert and The Music Box remain masterpieces of comedy I think. This isn't a vintage collection but there are some great moments if you are a fan and A Chump at Oxford is probably the last decent film they made before the move to 20th Century Fox where some terrible pictures awaited them and they were frustrated by minimal creative control. Blockheads and A Chump at Oxford are sort of like a modest last hurrah now and the last bona-fide Laurel & Hardy films. Laurel & Hardy's greatest strength was that they were very human and the audience could recognise these failings in themselves. For all his brilliance even Chaplin couldn't connect to an audience in the same way. The collection begins with A Chump at Oxford - directed by Alfred Goulding and released in 1940. This is feature length (about an hour) and the penultimate film they made with their legendary producer Hal Roach. Laurel & Hardy play street cleaners who unwittingly foil a bank robbery when Stan throws his banana peel away during their lunch break. The wealthy president of the bank offers them any reward they care to name. All they have to do is ask and he'll sort it out. Their biggest regret is their lack of schooling and habit of drifting aimlessly from job to job so they decide they would like to go to Oxford University and finally get a proper education.
Once at Oxford, they get lost in a maze, are "hazed" by the snotty students (look out for a young Peter Cushing), and the dim-witted Stan is accidentally hit on the head when he looks out of a window and it drops on him. This causes him to take on the personality of his doppelganger - a long lost Oxford luminary and scholastic and athletic genius named Lord Paddington. He's soon speaking in an upper crust accent, a high IQ genius and condescendingly referring to an exasperated Hardy (who he has now made his butler!) as "Fatty". A Chump at Oxford is not bad at all but not quite classic Laurel & Hardy. It is though a lot better than the twilight films they made at the end of their careers and certainly an interesting piece of work to look back on. This feels like a quickly assembled box of old routines and tricks but it does have its moments. The sequence in the maze with a pretend ghost is very good and Stan Laurel is excellent in a rare opportunity to get out of character and play the outrageously posh and superior Paddington. He necessarily gives a more textured performance than usual and his comments towards the increasingly furious Hardy are often very funny. "He has a jolly face you know... and helps fill up a room." This is the only time that Laurel stepped out of character in the films and it shows what a good actor he was. He's so convincing as the incredibly innocent and inept Stan that it's a slight shock at first to see him all posh and intelligent for a change. It's quite a nice twist on the usual dynamic between them and makes their scenes together very funny at times.
Hardy's exasperated looks directly into the camera, that silent plea for sympathy and understanding, are wonderful here and Stan's patronising and superior attitude gives him even more scope for them than usual. "Oh, uh, Fatty... fetch me my memorandum." The beginning to the film is actually one of the best sequences. It essentially remakes Another Fine Mess - one of the shorts you get on this DVD. A swanky dinner party scene with Laurel & Hardy serving James Finlayson (the goggle-eyed Scottish comic who was a recurring foil for our heroes) and Anita Garvin. Garvin is superb and has some of the best and funniest lines. "Thanks, Baldy - you're such a dear," she mutters to Finlayson as her husband. A Chump at Oxford is rather aimless at times with a few drab spots but this is agreeable enough on the whole. It was an important film at the time because Abbott & Costello (who were really not that funny at all and haven't stood the test of time very well) were on the brink of becoming the silver screen's most successful comedy duo and Laurel & Hardy (who were knocking on a bit by now) needed to show they were still fit and able and capable of good work as a fresh new decade dawned. Wlfred Lucas is well cast the Dean and although you never really get a sense that Laurel & Hardy are in England let alone Oxford the picture is well produced and competently directed. If I had one quibble though it would be the lack of a great classroom scene. One thinks of the wonderful classroom sequences in the classic university based Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers where the Marxes were allowed to disrupt and satirise. Luarel & Hardy are never let loose on the formal world of education in the same fashion.
From Soup to Nuts is a two-reeler and was directed in 1928 by E Livingston Kennedy. Two-reelers were short films that ran to about twenty minutes and were hugely popular in the twenties and thirties but eventually sunk by the double feature. The final nail in the coffin was of course probably the advent of television. The two-reelers are frequently where Laurel & Hardy did their funniest and most memorable work. From Soup to Nuts was the first film that Laurel & Hardy enjoyed star billing in. The pair play waiters sent by their agency to service at a posh dinner where Anita Garvin hopes to impress her friends. It probably won't come as a huge surprise to learn that all does not go according to plan. This is fairly straight ahead slapstick but not bad. Stan spills food over the guests, Ollie keeps ending up falling into an enormous cake, Stan strips to his underwear when told to serve the salad "undressed". And so on. Anita Garvin is excellent again. Desperately trying to maintain her poise and dignity as the dinner goes horrendously wrong and her tiara keeps falling over her eyes. Another Fine Mess is a two-reeler from 1930. The title of this film might be responsible for the erroneous belief that Hardy's catchphrase was "That's another fine mess you've gotten us into." In fact, he never uttered those words and would always say "nice mess" instead. In the film, Laurel & Hardy are on the run and end up hiding out at the empty mansion of big game hunter James Finlayson. As ever in the world of Laurel & Hardy, big trouble is just around the corner.
When a British aristocrat and his wife arrive to take up residence Hardy pretends to be the owner of the house while Stan masquerades as the maid! This is pretty good. Hardy all bluff and smooth savoir-faire as he pretends to be the rich owner and Stan doing endless switches from butler to maid and sometimes forgetting which costume he is in. This one moves along at a good clip with nice dialogue and is fun. This DVD is hardly the best of Laurel & Hardy but it does contain some wonderful moments and A Chump at Oxford is definitely one later Laurel & Hardy film that is worth watching. There are no extras with this although you do get the dubious option to watch these in computer coloured versions. No idea why anyone would want to watch computer coloured versions of old black and white films. At the time of writing you can buy this DVD for as little as one pound.
Laurel & Hardy Volume 1 - A Chump at Oxford
This is a single DVD containing 3 wonderful films;
A chump at oxford
From soup to nuts
Another fine mess
The films are in their original black and white format and also 'colourised' version.
The main feature is
"A Chump at oxford"
This is a superb comedy made when Laurel and Hardy where at their best.
By pure accident it seems Stan is related to one of Oxfords finest 'Fellow' and is given a place there with Ollie as his butler. When Stan gets a knock on the head he wiggles those ears and starts fighting everyone in sight, he also thinks that he is a lord until another bang brings him back to normal.
Simply brilliant, a fighting Stan is something to behold and worth the money for this movie alone.
"From Soup to Nuts".
A silent movie made very early on in 1928.
Stan and Ollie are waiters who wreck the house and the guests of the house where they are hired to work.
Not much else to the plot really, an early outing and the guys have not quite got their act perfected yet. The gags are great and the slapstick wonderful.
"Another fine mess".
The guys are hiding from the police in a very posh house when guests come calling. They ham it up and pretend to be the real owner which is great until the real owners turn up.
Ending involves the obligatory shot gun.
Stan in a wig looks unnervingly like a woman. He and Ollie eventually have a spectacular falling out and the house is wrecked.
All 3 films are classics and timeless, with no chance of offence from the guys as they smash, fight and wreck everything in site. The pretend violence seems to escalate to unbelievable proportions until the inevitable explosion.
Laurel & Hardy Volume 1 -
A Chump at Oxford and Related Shorts.
The greatest comedy double act EVER, no arguments please.
The magnificent Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star in this wonderfully funny DVD.
So let me take you on a tour of these 3 great films.
Where better to start than at volume 1.
This single DVD contains the following films:
A chump at oxford (black & white)
A chump at oxford (colourised)
From soup to nuts
Another fine mess (black & white)
Another fine mess (colourised)
A small Synopsis of each movie and my humble opinions on each to follow:
A chump at oxford.
Made in 1940
OK here goes I hope you are paying attention because the plot to this movie goes all over the place, ready...
The boys are down on their luck and the only way to get jobs is for Stan to dress up as a woman and for them to pretend to be a maid and butler.
They are hired for a fancy socialite party but as you can probably guess end up wrecking the place.
Fired, they end up on the streets where fortuitously they capture a bank robber and the grateful bank manager decides to reward them by sending them to Oxford.
When they get there the students play all sorts of 'japes' on them such as telling them the deans quarters are their quarters, mayhem ensues.
Now the film gets wacky, Stan gets a whack to the head and believes himself to be a long, long distant relative who was once at Oxford and fantastic at everything. He takes Ollie on as his manservant aptly called FATTY.
Here we fist see Stans ability to 'wiggle' his ears when he gets mad and when does, watch out because he is the greatest fighter ever.
I won't spoil the ending but it is a classic film and a must see for any real Laurel and Hardy fans.
Immensely funny from start to finish, if you get the chance to see it, don't pass it up.
Oh, and the colourised version is wonderful to watch!
Run time 63 minutes
From Soup to Nuts.
Made in 1928.
Only a short and SILENT film this one,
Similar to the start of 'Chump' the boys are hired as waiters but as you can guess they are utterly hopeless. Whilst Ollie tries his best, Stan not only wrecks the house but nearly gives Ollie a break down in the process.
The dinner party they are 'looking after' ends up in food fights and chaotic madness.
This is an early outing for the boys and their timing with each other is not quite there but none the less it's still very funny.
It is directed by the wonderful Edgar Kennedy who will go on to star in many of their later movies.
Run time 18 minutes.
Another fine mess.
Made in 1930.
The boys are vagrants and by mishap the police are chasing them. They hideout in the home of Colonel Buckshot while he is away on safari. However guests come a calling and Stan must pretend to be both butler and maid with hilarious consequences. Whilst Ollie pretends to be the colonel.
You guessed it, the real Colonel Buckshot returns and all hell is let loose, including shotguns and windows and well, enough said.
At only half an hour long this shortie is still packed with all the slapstick and funnies that come with Stan and Ollie.
Again the colourised version is superb to see.
Run time 28 minutes
Filmed in: Black & white and colourised
Number of discs: 1
Run time: 195 minutes
A DVD where all 3 films are very funny. You will not be disappointed.
Hope you enjoyed the review,