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Thursday, January 31, 2019

'The Laurel & Hardy Comedy Collection' DVD: Genesis of Modern Comedy Teams

Mill Creek Entertainment goes fully old school regarding the January 8, 2018 2-disc DVD release "The Laurel & Hardy Comedy Collection." This extensive set of team and solo shorts and feature films illustrates how these film pioneers influence many duos who follow on the large and small screen. 

recent post on the fantabulous theatrical film "Stan & Ollie" expands on this theme of the legacy of the duo. 

The scope of these 24 classic performances include the first pairing that has a sinister-looking Hardy appear in the 1921 Laurel short "The Lucky Dog." This early silent has Laurel starring as a recently evicted tenant who soon becomes the companion of the best friend of man; pure vaudeville ensues in the form of the character whom Laurel portrays inadvertently thwarting the hold-up by the Hardy character. Further hilarity ensues as the Hardy character attempts to recover his ill-gotten gain.

The 1943 color short "The Tree in a Test Tube" is an amusing pulp non-fiction PSA in which Laurel and Hardy discover that a surprising number of household goods are made of wood. We get another alternative format in home movies that show the pair clowning around with the children of Laurel. 

A highlight is the classic feature-length film "The Flying Deuces." This one has a lovelorn Hardy get his buddy Laurel to join the French Foreign Legion to help the rotund Romeo forget a broken heart. The boys soon realize the reality of their situation and that walking away is less easy than expected. Of course, hilarity ensues in manners that include making authority figures look foolish.

The lesser-known feature "Utopia" from 1951 is darker and more cynical than "Deuces." This arguably reflects a belief that the fans of the team are a little older and interested in a story line that reflects that maturity. 

"Utopia" commences with Laurel and Hardy travelling to London to collect an inheritance of Laurel; the pile of cash quickly diminishing because of taxes and fees is the first bit of "adult content" and recurs during the film. 

Hilarity fully ensues as the team and two disenfranchised men hit the high seas en route to the tropical island that is part of the aforementioned legacy. A series of unfortunate circumstances lead to a shipwreck that reminds us that the legacy of the team includes Gilligan and the Skipper. 

As oft is the case, a dame who is seeking her own escape from the civilized world coming on the scene creates mayhem. The quartet of men vie for her affections in oft desperate manners. Subsequent arrivals create more complications and hilarity. 

The best part of all this is that this MCE release reflects the original mission of Unreal TV; this objective is keeping classic films and television programs in the public consciousness. It sadly is likely that this review is the first that those of the generation that reserve actually making a telephone call to dire emergencies have ever heard of the guys who set the standard for team comedy.  

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