'Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations' [BR]
(Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, et al / 4-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2018) 2020 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Featuring Brand New 2K and 4K digital restorations from original 35mm nitrate, Laurel and Hardy's classic comedies are here in the best quality since their first release!
Two features and 17 shorts, including the legendary pie-fight silent film The Battle of the Century, make their video debuts and make this a nearly complete collection for the first time in over 90 years!
Blu-ray Verdict: Featuring quite wondrous restorations by Jeff Joseph/SabuCat in conjunction with the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Library of Congress, and using careful photochemical and digital techniques, these two (2) classic L&H films are restored to pristine condition.
Trust me when I say that in these stunning new transfers, they look and sound as beautiful as they did when they were first released!
The first one up is 'Sons of the Desert,' which for my money, has got to be one of the funniest movies ever made by Hollywood.
The only other that comes close is Laurel and Hardy's 'Way Out West,' which we shall obviously get to in a moment!
No other comedy team in the history of show business had the perfect comic timing of Stan and Oliver, not even the inimitable teams of Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis.
Stan and Oliver had appeared separately in several films before they were teamed. Although they were both multi-talented (Oliver was one of the best singers around) and individually funny, together they broke all the comedic barriers.
No such chemistry has existed between two entertainers before or since. Mel Brooks said it best, "Dying is easy. Comedy, that's difficult."
This time around the boys attempt to slip away from their domineering wives (Only Stan would choose a mate that was one of the best duck hunters around and thus a crack shot with a gun) to attend a convention of the illustrious "Sons of the Desert" in Chicago to hear the "exhausted" ruler speak, as Stan calls him.
Oliver feigns illness, getting Stan to bring a fake doctor to advise a sea cruise to Honululu. Only Stan could make opening a door to exit a room excruciatingly funny.
As usual Stan bungles it all and gets a Veterinarian instead who just happens to bring his dogs along on the house call. The ruse works after a few hilarious scenes involved Oliver and the tub of hot water in which his feet are soaking.
The boys ultimately end up in Chicago. The boat to Hawaii sinks and with the sinking of the ship, the boys' fabrication also fills with water.
As good as Stan and Oliver were, Charlie Chase, an almost forgotten genius of slapstick, nearly steals the show from the boys as a practical joker who just happens to have a sister who lives at the same address as Oliver Hardy lives.
Chase was more than a match for the two and their scenes together represent the apex of their careers.
In the other restored film we get the aforementioned 'Way Out West,' and whilst 'Sons of the Desert has the bonus of Charlie Chase (adding even more mirth to the picture), 'Way Out West' has two bonuses: Chill Wills and his Avalon boys who aid Stan and Ollie in two of their finest song and dance routines, and the king of the double take James Finlayson as Mickey Finn (a moniker that would have made W.C. Fields proud), who appeared in many Laurel and Hardy shorts.
The talented Rosina Lawrence as Mary Roberts is also an added attraction, of course.
Stan, Ollie, and their mule, who almost steals the show toward the end when being accidentally hoisted upstairs by a rope and pulley, are to deliver a deed for a gold mine to an orphan whose guardians are determined to steal the mine from her once they are informed unintentionally by Stanley.
The slapstick and funny lines fly fast and furious throughout the 65 minutes. Even the song and dance numbers are hilarious!
Everybody looks like they're having a great old time here in 'Way Out West.' Finlayson is a terrific Snidely Whiplash, Lynne does a great imitation of the kind of brassy dame that Gladys George or Binnie Barnes had a specialty in, and Lawrence is a fabulous little Nell heroine.
'Way Out West' is one of Stan and Ollie's best feature film comedies, as aforementioned, and it even got an Oscar nomination for Best Musical Scoring!
The slew of restored Classic Short Films are: Berth Marks (plus alternate soundtrack); The Battle of the Century (with new music track by Donald Sosin); Brats (plus alternate soundtrack); Busy Bodies; The Chimp; Come Clean; County Hospital; Helpmates; Hog Wild; Me and My Pal; Midnight Patrol; The Music Box; One Good Turn; Scram!; Their First Mistake; Towed in a Hole; Twice Two; and both That's That, and The Tree in a Test Tube.
These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
L&H off-camera pix from Hardy's collection
That's That (restored/first time on video)
Tree in a Test Tube (restored from 16mm Kodachrome)
Ships Reporter Oliver Hardy Interview (restored)
Huge collection of rare photos, stills, posters, scripts and studio files
Commentaries by Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann
Never before seen video interviews as well as audio interviews with L&H co-workers
Restored Trailers and More!