Author Topic: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30  (Read 954 times)

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A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« on: September 03, 2020, 07:33:16 PM »
I’ll suggest the first week of November as the start for this.  That’ll give interested folk some time to realise that this is happening and buy any DVDs/blu-rays they may require to take part.

I’ve been itching to continue our communal rewatch of Laurel and Hardy for a few weeks now.  I have built up my DVD collection with a few region 1 releases lately, which means I can progress through their sound era without any gaps (apart from The Rogue Song (1930) which only exists in fragments) and with the option of a range of DVD commentaries from Laurel and Hardy experts like Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann.

For the first leg of this Laurel and Hardy watch-along (which took us to the end of 1929) I scoured the internet for videos of each film for us to watch.  The silent era of Laurel and Hardy is not very well covered by DVD releases at present; the superior versions available in the US have been out of print for many years and now command ridiculous prices on eBay.  So in that initial thread I felt quite relaxed about sharing links to those films when they existed online.  However the sound era is excellently covered by DVD and blu-ray releases, and if you care about Laurel and Hardy I’d encourage you to buy these films in one or more of the versions listed towards the end of this post.  From now on, excepting public domain or unavailable material I will not be sharing any video links, but I hope you will nevertheless find a way to enjoy these films and take part in these discussions.



The current thread will take us to the end of 1930, and I will be starting new threads for the years that follow.  For this one there is some overlap with the previous thread, as I wanted to rewind to a more interesting starting point.  Here’s what we’ll be looking at:


1927
16) The Battle of the Century (Released 31st December, 1927) - Silent - for decades mostly lost; recently rediscovered and now available on DVD and blu-ray in almost complete form

1929
32) Unaccustomed As We Are (Released 4th May, 1929) - Sound (Laurel and Hardy’s first all-talking film)
33) Double Whoopee (Released 18th May, 1929) - Silent
34) Berth Marks (Released 1st June, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
35) Men O’War (Released 29th June, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
36) Perfect Day (Released 10th August, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
37) They Go Boom (Released 21st September, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
38) Bacon Grabbers (Released 19th October, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
39) The Hoose-Gow (Released 16th November, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
40) The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Released 23rd November, 1929) - Sound (all-talking)
41) Angora Love (Released 14th December, 1929) - Sound (music and synchronised sound effects only)

1930
42) Night Owls (Released 4th January, 1930) - also Ladrones, the Spanish version
43) The Rogue Song (Released 17th January, 1930) - this exists only in fragments, but with a complete audio track
44) Blotto (Released 8th February, 1930) - also La Vida Nocturna, the Spanish version
45) Brats (Released 22nd March, 1930)
46) Below Zero (Released 26th April, 1930) - also Tiembla Y Titubea, the Spanish version
47) Hog Wild (Released 31st May, 1930)
48) The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case (Released 6th September, 1930) - also Noche De Duendes, the Spanish version
49) Another Fine Mess (Released 29th November, 1930) - this is a remake of Duck Soup (1927)



Here are the DVD and blu-ray releases that are available for the above films:


Laurel and Hardy:  The Collection (2004, Region 2) - containing most of the Hal Roach silents and talkies up to 1940



This remains the least complicated way to obtain Laurel and Hardy's silent shorts, but it’s an unwieldy beast at 21 discs, with the films organised in the least intuitive manner imaginable and irritating colourised versions of several films padding out the set.  It was a welcome release at the time but purists and completists will find it leaves a substantial amount to be desired.  This handy website details some of its limitations (note that these issues are mostly resolved in subsequent releases):  http://www.laurelandhardy.org/newDVDREV.html

One of the biggest issues I have with this set is the PAL speed-up, which brings an unnaturally cartoonish flow to Laurel and Hardy’s movements and a slightly higher pitch to their voices.  Some won’t mind, but after some careful comparison I’ve reached the personal conclusion that it damages the rhythm and character of their work.  My suggested solution, if you choose this box set for our communal watch, is to use VLC player and then change the playback speed to 96%.  Here’s how to do that:  http://wiki.robotz.com/index.php/Compensate_for_PAL_Speedup_in_Digital_Video



Laurel and Hardy:  The Essential Collection (2011, Region 1) - containing most of the Hal Roach talkies up to 1940



This set contains the same talkies as the UK release (sadly none of the silents), but restored to a much higher quality, using more recently discovered original elements (including, for example, the option to watch Perfect Day with its long-lost 1929 Vitaphone audio accompaniment, as well as the more familiar 1936 reissue soundtrack).  Without the colourised versions this set sits cosily within 10 discs, which you will want to remove from their cardboard sleeves immediately after purchase (mine are kept in a soft DVD wallet).  The foreign-language versions here have subtitles (unfathomably the UK set didn’t think of it) and two optional commentary tracks are provided for each of Hog Wild (1930), Another Fine Mess (1930), Sons of the Desert (1933) and Way Out West (1937).  The only downside in my view is that once again Pardon Us (1931) is presented in its “final preview” 70 minute version, without the option to see it in its shorter theatrical release version of 56 minutes.



Laurel and Hardy:  The Definitive Restorations (2020, Region Free) - containing selected shorts and features from the Hal Roach era



This set of new 2K and 4K restorations (containing 2 features and 17 short films) includes the debut of the now almost complete The Battle of the Century (1927).  There are also numerous interviews and trailers, and an informative commentary track for every film in this release by either Skretvedt or Bann.  I’ve ordered my copy of this but it hasn’t arrived yet; I’ll be using this communal watch as the opportunity to delve into it.  It’s available as a set of either 4 blu-ray discs or 6 DVDs.



The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (2009, Region 1)



This feature film is absent from the above Hal Roach sets.  It’s a production that boasts an assortment of the era's M-G-M stars, with Laurel and Hardy appearing for only 6 minutes in total.  It has its own bare-bones DVD release, which I haven’t yet watched so I’m not in a position to comment on the quality of the restoration.  When the time comes you may wish to seek out merely the Laurel and Hardy portions, depending on how much of a completist you are.  This film includes Buster Keaton amongst the stars, and some of the sequences (not the Laurel and Hardy ones unfortunately) were filmed using the two-colour Technicolor process, so it's an interesting slice of history in its full form.



The Rogue Song (Unavailable)

This (two-colour Technicolor) film hasn’t survived in its entirety so isn’t available for purchase (a few snippets exist as extras on various other releases).  Fragments survive, as does its entire soundtrack, so you will have the option of watching a cobbled-together edit or just clips, as you choose.  For The Rogue Song I will break my no-video-links rule, as we have limited options.

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2020, 10:34:14 PM »
Here’s the schedule, along with details of the alternative soundtracks and commentaries included on the DVD sets.


TC = The Collection (2004, Region 2)
TEC = The Essential Collection (2011, Region 1)
TDR = The Definitive Restorations (2020, Region Free)


w/c 2nd November 2020
16) The Battle of the Century
TDR:  Audio commentary with Richard W. Bann

w/c 9th November 2020
32) Unaccustomed As We Are

w/c 16th November 2020
33) Double Whoopee

w/c 23rd November 2020
34) Berth Marks
TDR:  With original 1929 soundtrack and 1936 reissue soundtrack
TDR:  Audio commentary with Randy Skretvedt

w/c 30th November 2020
35) Men O’War

w/c 7th December 2020
36) Perfect Day
TEC:  With original 1929 soundtrack and 1937 reissue soundtrack

w/c 14th December 2020
37) They Go Boom

w/c 21st December 2020
38) Bacon Grabbers

w/c 28th December 2020
39) The Hoose-Gow

w/c 4th January 2021
40) The Hollywood Revue of 1929

w/c 11th January 2021
41) Angora Love

w/c 18th January 2021
42) Night Owls

w/c 25th January 2021
Foreign-Language Version:  Ladrones (Spanish)

w/c 1st February 2021
43) The Rogue Song

w/c 8th February 2021
44) Blotto

w/c 15th February 2021
Foreign-Language Version:  La Vida Nocturna (Spanish)

w/c 22nd February 2021
45) Brats
TDR, TEC and TC:  With original 1930 soundtrack and 1937 reissue soundtrack
TDR:  Audio commentary with Randy Skretvedt

w/c 1st March 2021
46) Below Zero

w/c 8th March 2021
Foreign-Language Version:  Tiembla Y Titubea (Spanish)

w/c 15th March 2021
47) Hog Wild
TDR:  Audio commentary with Randy Skretvedt
TEC:  Two audio commentaries:  Richard W. Bann and Rich Correll together (twice)

w/c 22nd March 2021
48) The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case

w/c 29th March 2021
Foreign-Language Version:  Noche De Duendes (Spanish)

w/c 5th April 2021
49) Another Fine Mess
TEC:  Two audio commentaries:  Richard W. Bann and Piet Schreuders together and Richard W. Bann solo

Glebe

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2020, 03:48:35 AM »
Impressive work there, Replies.

I'd like to get around to snapping up the Marx Bros Blu-rays at some point, they've been around a good while now.

daf

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2020, 09:39:50 AM »
One of the biggest issues I have with this set is the PAL speed-up, which brings an unnaturally cartoonish flow to Laurel and Hardy’s movements and a slightly higher pitch to their voices.  Some won’t mind, but after some careful comparison I’ve reached the personal conclusion that it damages the rhythm and character of their work.

Having only experienced the versions shown on BBC, the 4% speedup is pretty much nailed on to my brain as the 'correct' speed! I found the colourised versions on that big bastard 21 DVD (which are at the original speed) a bit sluggish.

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2020, 07:33:47 AM »
It is up to you, of course.  I find the colourised ones more of a chore to watch on their own terms so wouldn't use them as a gauge personally!

I'll refer to one of Durance Vile's comments in the previous thread:

Also, for the first time I watched it twice, the second time with the American version as Replies recommended. It really does make a difference. You can properly see them acting.

It's hard to put a finger on why a mere 4% speed-up should make such an enormous difference, but it brings a constant over-cranked energy to performers who were acting with a far more careful pace and rhythm than lesser comics of the day.  Sped up, they lose their nuance of expression. 

I'd say that when you give Laurel and Hardy the time, you end up seeing far more than you assumed you would.  The correct speed may initially feel sluggish if you're not used to it, but for me the spirit of this communal watch is to try to see these films with fresh eyes and give the performers a go at showing the films they created rather than the grubby, hacked-to-bits versions that ended up on television, even though on a nostalgic basis you can have a love for those versions too.

It's also not my business or desire to control anyone's choices, so please do what you want to do.  I just wanted to make my case for giving the correct speed a chance.

daf

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2020, 11:42:22 AM »
Oh god no - I've never made it though any of the colourised versions - they were just the first time I realised I'd been watching Laurel & Hardy at the wrong speed all these years!

I'm sure you're absolutely right with the pace - and I'd soon get used to it with a bit more exposure (I'm hoping for a nice UK blu ray set some time in the future).




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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2020, 09:50:00 PM »
Brilliant work and thanks for the info about subsequent releases, I've been working from the 21-disc set (bought by an uncle) for ages and assumed it was complete. More fool me.

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2020, 09:56:44 PM »
Still looking for a copy of Fra Diavolo . .  or "Bogus Bandits" or whatever it's called - any good version of that on (region 2) DVD?

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2020, 07:52:17 AM »
Still looking for a copy of Fra Diavolo . .  or "Bogus Bandits" or whatever it's called - any good version of that on (region 2) DVD?

Not on Region 2.  Region 1 is the way to go for most of these.  I get around the region code lock by using VLC player on my laptop.

I’ll put up a post in the next couple of days suggesting the best DVD releases for everything else that’s not on the above Hal Roach box sets, so people can plan ahead for the later threads.

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2020, 10:10:22 PM »
As we progress through this series of threads, we’ll be encountering some more films not included on any of the above Hal Roach box sets.  I thought I’d mention these now rather than later, as I’ve found they can take a while to ship after you have ordered them, especially if you buy them second hand.

The films absent from the Hal Roach box sets are, in order of release (and with the production company included in brackets):

The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (M-G-M) (already covered above)
The Rogue Song (M-G-M, 1930) (already covered above)
The Stolen Jools (Pat Casey, 1931)
The Devil’s Brother (aka Fra Diavolo) (Hal Roach, 1933)
Hollywood Party (M-G-M, 1934)
Babes in Toyland (aka March of the Wooden Soldiers) (Hal Roach, 1934)
Bonnie Scotland (Hal Roach, 1935)
Pick a Star (Hal Roach, 1937)
The Flying Deuces (Boris Morros, 1939)
Great Guns (Twentieth Century Fox, 1941)
A-Haunting We Will Go (Twentieth Century Fox, 1942)
Air Raid Wardens (M-G-M, 1943)
Jitterbugs (Twentieth Century Fox, 1943)
The Dancing Masters (Twentieth Century Fox, 1943)
The Big Noise (Twentieth Century Fox, 1944)
Nothing but Trouble (M-G-M, 1944)
The Bullfighters (Twentieth Century Fox, 1945)
Atoll K (Raymond Eger, 1951)



Below are the best DVD releases of the above films:



The Stolen Jools (2015, Region 1)



This 20 minute film is in the public domain, and only completists should feel inclined to buy this bare-bones DVD release from The Film Detective (which actually seems to be a DVD-R).  Laurel and Hardy appear for roughly 30 seconds in this short but fascinating time-capsule:  a charity production that showcases a large cast of first-generation talking film performers from numerous studios including Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO, M-G-M and Hal Roach.  It’s available online and will be one of the few exceptions to my no-video-links rule.



The Devil’s Brother (aka Fra Diavolo) and Bonnie Scotland (2010, Region 1)



This DVD set from TCM includes an audio commentary from Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann on both films, plus Laurel and Hardy’s cameo fragments from the The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Rogue Song, Hollywood Party and Pick a Star.  A recommended release.



Hollywood Party (2011, Region 1)



This is in the mould of The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  Much the same kind of film - M-G-M stars of the day doing a stint each, with Laurel and Hardy appearing only briefly.  This release includes some bonus audio pre-recordings and outtakes of deleted songs.



Babes in Toyland (aka March of the Wooden Soldiers) (2006/2008, Region 1)

 

The sets for this film were painted in bright, vibrant colours, like illustrations in children’s books; Stan Laurel went on to regret that it was not made in Technicolor, but the cost would have been prohibitive for Hal Roach at the time.  Its 2006 colourisation treatment from Legend Films is therefore (in my view) the only attempt to colourise Laurel and Hardy that doesn’t feel horribly wrong in both concept and implementation.  I’d advise you to avoid The Samuel Goldwyn Company’s substantially worse effort to colourise this film in 1991, however.

So there are two “best” releases of this feature, and they are both Region 1:  the Legend Films DVD (left) which contains their colourised version plus an adequate sepiatone one, and the 2008 M-G-M release (right) which offers a superior sepiatone print.  It is also available for streaming on Amazon Prime.



Pick a Star (2012, Region 1)



Another in the style of The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Hollywood Party.  Apparently it’s the best of the three films, but this is a bare-bones DVD release.



The Flying Deuces (2015, Region 2)



Initially distributed by RKO Radio Pictures and now in the public domain, The Flying Deuces is ubiquitous on DVD in edits of varying length and quality.  Muddy prints are frequently bundled with silent solo outings from Laurel and Hardy that are equally without quality control and smeared with inappropriate music.  Avoid all these cash-grabs and get this Network release instead.  It’s also available for streaming on Amazon Prime if you prefer.



Great Guns, A-Haunting We Will Go, Jitterbugs, The Dancing Masters, The Big Noise and The Bullfighters (2006, Region 1)



Laurel and Hardy’s films from the 1940s have a reputation for being mediocre at best.  Post-Roach, the big studios Twentieth Century Fox and M-G-M didn’t grant Stan and Ollie the creative involvement they were used to or needed, and they were reduced to being merely actors in films where the writers didn’t seem to understand or respect their characters.

Six features were produced by Twentieth Century Fox, and two by M-G-M.  The Region 1 DVD release of the Fox films includes informative and critical audio commentaries by Randy Skretvedt and Scott MacGillivray.  Note that the Region 2 release of these films looks identical, but it lacks all the extras including the commentaries.  So be sure to grab the Region 1 set if you intend to stick around for this phase of our communal watch.



Air Raid Wardens and Nothing but Trouble (2018, Region 1)



These are the two 1940s Laurel and Hardy offerings from M-G-M.  They are presented together on a single DVD with very few extras.



Atoll K (2018, Region 2)



Laurel and Hardy’s final feature is in the public domain and is consequently available on a glut of inexpensive DVDs with differing running times and print quality.  This one from the BFI is the only one worth buying.  It comes with both a blu-ray and a DVD disc, it contains the most complete version of the film available and it includes a commentary by Glenn Mitchell as well as some other fascinating extras.

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2020, 10:28:36 PM »
hello mate

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2020, 09:49:55 AM »
A blu ray of Network's Flying Deuces is also available - a snip at around six quid on Amazon

Though the Air Raid Wardens / Nothing but Trouble disc says it's Region 1, my copy plays fine on my region 2 player - I think I read a review that mentioned that it was actually 'region free' - and possibly ALL warner DVDs were like that?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2020, 10:31:12 AM by daf »

Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2020, 10:18:55 AM »
Does the music on the soundtrack also sound better at correct speed?

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2020, 10:43:11 AM »
A blu ray of Network's Flying Deuces is also available - a snip at around six quid on Amazon

The same is true of the Legend Films release of March of the Wooden Soldiers.

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2020, 10:46:50 AM »
Does the music on the soundtrack also sound better at correct speed?

It’ll be corrected is all I can say to that!  I tend to notice the performance speed and vocal pitch more, but everyone will have a different priority.


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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2020, 11:40:20 AM »
There's a reconstruction of The Rogue Song posted on youtube - Might be worth a squint (if it's still up) when the time comes?

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Re: A Communal Watch of the Laurel and Hardy Talkies 1: 1929-30
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2020, 12:43:55 PM »
There's a reconstruction of The Rogue Song posted on youtube - Might be worth a squint (if it's still up) when the time comes?

Thanks daf; this is indeed my intention!  It’s quite exciting that the complete soundtrack survives.  Brings something of the spirit of 1960s Doctor Who reconstructions to proceedings.  I wonder if it will be eerie to hear the voices of Stan and Ollie in sequences that no longer exist visually.

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