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Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Editorial review of Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, courtesy of Amazon.com

Laurel & Hardy: The Essential CollectionBuy from Amazon.com “Eternal pals and eternal antagonists, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the great partnership of movie slapstick. They finally get their DVD due with Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, a 10-disc orgy of pratfalls, slow burns, and slap fights–in short, a collection that truly qualifies as a must-have for connoisseurs of comedy. The collection contains the sound films that Laurel and Hardy made for producer Hal Roach, the man who teamed the simpering English vaudeville player and the rotund American actor in the first place (although their laughs are evenly divided, Laurel was the creative force and chief gag-inventor of the duo).

Stan and Ollie dancing in Way Out West

Stan and Ollie dancing in Way Out West

The collection contains the sound films that Laurel and Hardy made for producer Hal Roach, the man who teamed the simpering English vaudeville player and the rotund American actor in the first place (although their laughs are evenly divided, Laurel was the creative force and chief gag-inventor of the duo).

Their track record is proof that it isn’t merely the jokes that make for comic success; it’s the personalities of the comedians. Thus, Stan’s dimwitted innocence and Ollie’s perpetually exasperated reactions (raised to an exquisite art by Hardy’s comprehensive glances at the camera, assuring the audience’s complicity in his misery) are the essence of their success. Some films are great, some merely passable, but all stick blissfully to character. This is on glorious display through these Roach pictures, whether it’s the boys sharing one small train berth in Berth Marks, executing their famous synchronized dance in Way Out West, or laboring to get that piano up a very steep flight of stairs in the Oscar-winning The Music Box.

Stan and Ollie in The Music Box

Stan and Ollie in The Music Box

The films look as good as movies from 1929 to 1940 can reasonably be expected to look. Included in the boxed set are seven foreign-language films (six in Spanish, one in French), shot in order to keep the duo popular in overseas markets, before dubbing made that goal easier.

Fascinatingly, these films often extend the English-language films they are ostensibly adapted from, with different gags and plot turns–and it’s fun to hear Stan and Ollie speaking in another language. Special features include a ho-hum 40-minute tribute with testimonials from fellow comedians (especially talkative are Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis); an “”Interactive Map”” with Los Angeles location sites from their movies; three Roach shorts in which L&H pop up in cameos; and a 1942 short produced for the Department of Agriculture (another L&H cameo). A few (not many) films have commentaries that include the informed Laurel and Hardy buff Richard W. Bann; Sons of the Desert has a track with Tim Conway and Chuck McCann, who don’t seem to know how a commentary track works but have a nice time watching the movie. –Robert Horton

Poor Oliver fallen into the pond in Hog wild

Poor Oliver fallen into the pond in Hog wild

Laurel and Hardy: The Essential Collection includes:

Disc 1:

DISC 2:

  • La Vida Nocturna (Blotto, Spanish) 1930
  • Brats 1937 [reissue, new LeRoy Shield musical score]
  • Brats 1930 [original score of stock jazz-band records]
  • Below Zero 1930
  • Tiemblay Titubea  (Below Zero, Spanish) 1930
  • Hog Wild 1930
  • The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case 1930
  • Noche De Duendes (The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case & Berth Marks, Spanish) 1930
  • Another Fine Mess 1930

Disc 3:

Disc 4:

Disc 5:

Disc 6:

Disc 7:

Disc 8:

Disc 9:

Disc 10:

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • A Tribute to Laurel & Hardy
  • On Location with the Boys: tour of set locations and interactive map
  • Laurel & Hardy Guest Appearances
  • Laurel & Hardy Trailers
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