“ Genre: Comedy - Stand-Up / Theatrical Release: 1936 / Universal, suitable for all / Director: Harry Lachman / Actors: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Daphne Pollard, Bette Healy, James Finlayson ... / DVD released 2006-10-02 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: Black & White, Colour, PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Laurel & Hardy Volume 5 is another sepia tinted DVD compilation from the enduring comedy team and gives you the enjoyable extended film Our Relations and then two short features or, as they used to call them back in the 1930s, "two-reelers" - Brats and Twice Two. I should point out the discs in this almost but not quite comprehensive series are not presented in chronological order but instead themed. Maritime, Matrimony, Snow, Music, Murder. You get the general idea. What I most like about this is the way that features are often put on the same disc with any early short or silent film that they recycled material from or practically remade. A nice touch and one that allows the viewer to compare and contrast and note the technical and comedic progression. Our Relations is the main film here and was directed by Harry Lachman and released in 1936. This is feature length (73 minutes) and has the pair as sailors who are entrusted with a diamond ring to deliver while on shore leave. It won't come as a huge surprise to learn that all does not go quite according to plan and various comic capers and complications ensue. The port they stop in happens to be the town where their long lost and (just to elevate the confusion) married twin brothers reside so you therefore get Laurel & Hardy playing dual roles - as they do in all the films on this DVD set. While the identity crisis (a recurring theme for both Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers) shenanigans threaten to outstay their welcome once or twice, on the whole this is still one of the better extended Laurel & Hardy features. Our Relations is I think one of the most handsome and polished looking of all the Laurel & Hardy films and gains extra marks for this quality alone. There is a lavish nightclub set, elaborate costumes, gangsters, neon lights. The film looks like a lot of work went into it and some of the sets are quite charming. Much of this polish is credited to the wonderful creative camerawork by Rudolph Mate but also too the fine direction by Lachman, who sadly never worked with Laurel & Hardy again for some reason. A shame really. Lachman was not a comedy specialist at all but rather in the way that William Seiter, another director not usually known for comedy, made arguably the best ever ever Laurel & Hardy film with Sons of the Desert, he proved to be an astute choice to helm the picture. Because Our Relations was produced by Stan Laurel's own company for Hal Roach, Lachman could let Laurel (ironically, despite his onscreen persona, Stan Laurel was actually the brains of the organisation offscreen and would often have a hands-on role in the production) handle the comedy routines and divert his own attention to making sure the film looked good and that the rather tangled plot threads all managed to hang together in a satisfactory fashion. The story is perhaps a trifle too twisty (it was based on a story called The Money Box by Monkey's Paw author WW Jacobs and seems to heavily influenced by Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors) for a Laurel & Hardy comedy but emerges as an entertaining and enjoyable entry in their often very mixed-bag of full-length features. The jokes and situations are good and there is another encounter with the wily goggle-eyed James Finlayson, perhaps the most famous of their recurring adversaries. No one did crooked and chicanerous or a double-take quite as brilliantly as Finlayson. This time though it is Laurel & Hardy who get the upper hand. Finlayson ends up with mustard under his toupee! The dual role thing doesn't really stretch them much as they are just more or less the same in all roles here (despite the fact that the sailors are supposed to be carefree singles and the other twins hen-pecked) but the film moves at a good pace and is always fun. Once again it is the comedy of frustration that Laurel & Hardy often mine with situations like them trying to persuade beer hall manager Alan Hale that they were not there earlier with a couple of blondes. The identity mix-ups are fairly well deployed for comic effect. I think the biggest strength of Or Relations is that the film moves so briskly one is never allowed to become too frustrated by a particular sequence and the fact that the film looks handsome and very well produced adds to the experience too. The trick photography when the twins all meet is fairly basic (I suppose this was 1936) but it doesn't tremendously detract from what is on the whole a highly agreeable L&H entry. Our Relations is not Sons of the Desert or Way Out West but the high production values and some amusing moments along the way make it well worth watching if you are a fan. Two-reeler Brats was directed by James Parrot in 1930. I think many people would remember this one. Laurel & Hardy have to act as babysitters for their sons (played by Laurel & Hardy too of course). While the pair try to play pool downstairs, the children get up to various capers upstairs with the use of oversize props giving Laurel & Hardy the diminutive appearance of children. Brats is pretty good and just allows the duo to act childishly as both the adults and children. This is very well conceived and has some great moments and jokes. Laurel stepping on a horn just when Hardy has got the children to sleep with a lullaby, the children leaving a bath tap running and Hardy predictably opening the door to be met by a tidal wave. The trick photography is clever here (strangely, it seems to be more impressive than the aforementioned Our Relations despite the high production values of the former) and this completely plotless confection is a lot of fun. As much as anything it's the injection of a surreal element that gives Brats its appeal. The use of over-scale sets is very impressive and gives Brats a wonderful look. I love too the way Hardy has to keep starting his lullaby all over again and each time sings it with increasing vehemence. Note by the way a portrait of Jean Harlow on the mantlepiece in the house. More dual role capers to end the collection with Twice Two - directed by James Parrot in 1933. In this one they play each others wives! It's a bit weird to be honest and doesn't work as well as Brats (which it obviously seems to be trying to repeat the success of). I like the sight gags at the start but this one grows tiresome fairly quickly for some reason. It's The Jewel of the Nile to Brats' Romancing the Stone. A sequel that falls flat. This is a decent and above average collection overall and the only real weak link is Twice Two. There are certainly worse places to start if you are new to Laurel & Hardy. There are no extras with this aside from the computer coloured option, which I don't really understand myself. Old black and white films look wonderful and should be left alone. This is part of the great 21 disc Laurel & Hardy Collection (definitely worth buying but I haven't seen it at a reasonable price for a while) and at the time of writing can also be picked up individually for less than five pounds.
Laurel & Hardy Volume 5 - Our Relations/Dual Roles Shorts. ============================================= The greatest comedy double act EVER, Once again, no arguments please. The Stupendous or should that be stupid Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star in this wonderfully funny DVD. So let me take you on a tour of these 3 great films. This single DVD contains the following films: OUR RELATIONS - restored black-and-white version OUR RELATIONS - computer-colour version BRATS - restored black-and-white version BRATS - computer-colour version TWICE TWO - restored black-and-white version TWICE TWO - computer-colour version A small Synopsis of each movie and my humble opinions on each to follow: ~OUR RELATIONS~ Made in 1936 Runtime: 73 Minutes A huge case of mistaken identity where the boys are mistaken for their twin brothers, who new? There identical twin brothers are home on shore leave and are carrying a pearl ring for their captain. He meets Stan and Ollie and thinks their double crossing him when they have no idea what he's on a bout. The night club gets WRECKED! Then Stan, Ollie, Bert and Alf their respective twins end up in the mother of all fights. A hugely funny film with all of their trade marks, both Stan and his brother Bert wiggle their ears when they get made. Stan and Ollie's wives get mad themselves when they think they see Stan and Ollie chatting up 2 ladies of the night. Worth the DVD price on its own. ~BRATS~ Made in 1930 Runtime: 20 Minutes Stan and Ollie are baby sitting their children whilst their wives are out. Their children are played of course by stan and ollie and all of the props are over sized and wonderful to see. They try playing draughts but when thicky Stan beats clever Ollie, Ollie starts to blame the kids for being to noisy and sends them upstairs to run a bath before their bedtime. The kids end up leaving the taps running and well you can guess when ollie goes to get a drink of water...... A great comedy, where both the boys look quite youthful. The jokes and pranks come thick and fast, another great short film. ~TWICE TWO~ Made in 1933 Runtime: 20 Minutes Stan and Ollie are marrying each others sister! As the plans for the wedding proceed only chaos can come from these two trying to organise something like a wedding. They fighting and squabbling finally erupt over supper on the eve of the wedding day. The weakest of the 3 films on this DVD but still a funny ha ha film. The colourised versions are fantastic to watch and worth the price on their own. DVD features: ************ Filmed in: Black & white and colourised Language: English Subtitles: English Region: 2 Number of discs: 1 Classification: U ASIN: B0001K2KH0 Run time: 215 minutes A DVD where all 3 films are very funny. You will not be disappointed. Hope you enjoyed the review. Greg.