Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Laurel Hardy - Air Raid Wardens / Nothing but Trouble|
Actors: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Mary Boland, Philip Merivale, Henry O'Neill
Directors: Edward Sedgwick, Sam Taylor
Whether serving their country in wartime or serving multicourse mealtime mayhem, Laurel and Hardy serve up laughs in this classic twofer. First, the nation calls out in its hour of need, Stan and Ollie answer...and Uncle S... more »
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Five stars for releasing these to DVD: this pre-release revi
Scott MacGillivray | Massachusetts, USA | 09/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made two feature films for M-G-M in the 1940s, which were overlooked when the rest of the team's M-G-M output was released to DVD earlier this year. These two films are often missing pieces in a Laurel & Hardy fan's collection, and having them both on one disc is a convenient and economical way to enjoy them.
AIR RAID WARDENS and NOTHING BUT TROUBLE have more heart than usual for wartime L & H comedies, and the scripts paint the "Stan and Ollie" characters as being conscientious underdogs instead of oblivious idiots, for a welcome change. Most fans' basic complaint is that both films use M-G-M's inflexible formula for comedy, as repeatedly applied to Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers: the comedians reach a humiliating "low point," when things can't get any worse, only to bounce back to triumph and vindication. Be prepared for some scenes where Stan and Ollie are greatly humbled by a depressing turn of events. Good, straight acting by the leads, but not typically found in a Laurel & Hardy comedy.
AIR RAID WARDENS (1943) has our heroes trying to help their community in wartime by putting up posters (messily), attending a town meeting (distractingly), administering first aid (disastrously), asking Edgar Kennedy to please turn off his house lights (unsuccessfully), and finally foiling an enemy sabotage plot (and very successfully). A huge box-office hit in 1943 and a real "audience" picture: for best results watch this one with some friends.
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (1944) has Stan and Ollie as the world's worst butler and chef, from a long line of bad butlers and chefs, who steal a lion's lunch, preside over Mary Boland's important dinner party with their usual aptitude, try to protect an exiled boy king from political assassins, and wind up being forced onto a window ledge high above the city streets (very well staged).
The "serious" plots weigh these films down at times, so try not to pay too much attention to them and concentrate on the L & H gags instead. The team's timing and comic skills are most of the show here, overcoming M-G-M's relentlessly stately pacing. Print quality should be outstanding, based on the usually impeccable M-G-M vault elements."
Stan and Ollie in the Clutches of Leo the Lion
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 10/05/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The best aspect of this Laurel and Hardy "double feature" is the excellent print quality. In fact, the Warner DVD transfers are far superior to Hallmark's pathetic L&H product. Unfortunately, "Air Raid Wardens" (1943) and "Nothing But Trouble" (1944) find Stan and Ollie submerged in the cold rigidness of MGM's studio system - the same fate that greeted Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers and Our Gang. The boys deliver a few laughs in these later efforts, but the fun and spontaneity of the Hal Roach days are long gone."
One great movie and one o.k. movie(also a message toHALLMARK
ferrell | colorado | 08/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I want to say that with this dvd (along with the new 2 part box sets) we now have the complete post hal roach movies,except for a remastered officially released first generation unedited version of "atoll k" which is commonly known s "utopia" which I hope sees the light of day soon,so listen up HALLMARK get on the ball with the hal roach movies,we've seen more laurel and hardy releases in the last year than what HALLMARK has released in the last 6 years,since HALLMARK owns the rights to all the hal roach films and shorts I think two dvds in 6 years is just pitiful...now for the reviews of these two movies....."air raid wardens" is an o.k. movie but seems to be more like abbott and costello then l&h,but the movie that makes this disc is "Nothing but trouble"-which is in my opinion the best post hal roach movie PERIOD!!!!!"
The MGM Films are finally on DVD
C. Taylor | 10/18/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Just about any Laurel & Hardy biography or film book had the same opinion. "Blockheads" was the teams last great movie. Then the team was temporally split up with Laurel going off to produce B westerns and Hardy getting the lead role in "Zenobia". This was the dividing mark in their career. They re-teamed but the films their following films "A Chump At Oxford", "Flying Deuces" and "Saps At Sea" were all pretty weak. Then the Laurel and Hardy left Hal Roach for a contract at 20th Century Fox to make a series of movies and Fox executives sabotaged the team ( perhaps deliberately ) with bad movies that gradually grew worse until they hit rock bottom with "The Bullfighters". The boys also made a couple of movies for MGM studios but did no better as that studio had no idea how to make comedies. After a five year hiatus from movies the team returned to redeem themselves in the film "Atoll K" which was far superior to the Fox movies in plot but was hurt by Stan Laurels medical condition at the time of filming as well as the language barrier between cast members and crew. Another agreement was that "Jitterbugs" was the one good film to be made at the time but was nowhere as good at the teams weakest Roach movie, and another was that "The Big Bang" was the worst Laurel and Hardy movie ever made. Since the Fox and MGM movies were rarely shown on television and by the 90's had been out of circulation for decades there was no way for anyone other than film historians to make this evaluation. For the rest of us the only available Laurel & Hardy movies was "Flying Deuces" which was public domain and therefore shown many times on television, and "March of the Wooden Soldiers" which returned every year around Thanksgiving and/or near Christmas. Also about every five years Hal Roach would temporarily release several of his Laurel & Hardy movies to syndication and had allowed Blackhawk Films to release them to the home theater market. When VHS became a factor in the 80's Nostalgia Merchant, Video Treasures, and Cabin Fever videos released most of the Hal Roach sound movies while "Atoll K" which was public domain was released by just about every cheap home video company under it's American release title "Utopia". From what we saw "March Of The Wooden Soldiers" was a great film as the other Roach movies were of about equal quality, "Flying Deuces" was weak compared with those movies, and "Utopia" was weaker than "Flying Deuces" and disturbing. There seemed to be merit in the story that the Fox films were crap.
But then in 1992 MGM/UA decided to release the Laurel & Hardy movies they owned the rights to onto the home video sales market. Previously they had made "Bonnie Scotland" available to video rental shops or anyone else willing to pay $90 for a VHS tape. CBS/FOX had released "Great Guns" and "The Bull Fighters" to the rental shop market as well. The high price of these videos kept them out of most video retail stores and very few rental shops bought them for their nostalgia sections as "Flying Deuces" and "Utopia" were available for $10. With "Devil's Brother" and "Bonnie Scotland" now mass produced and available for under $20 MGM/UA had a hit on their hands and quickly dug into their vaults for any other Laurel and Hardy movies they owned the rights to. They came up with "Hollywood Party", "Pick A Star", and the Robert Youngson compilation "Laurel & Hardy's Laughing 20's". And then there was "Air Raid Wardens" and "Nothing But Trouble" which were released a year later. For the first time the mass public had the chance in decades to evaluate the Fox era movies for themselves. I myself a Laurel & Hardy fan bought them out of curiosity and was surprised to see that they were not the horrible train wrecks that they had been made out to be. Perhaps it was the Fox movies that were crap? But then in 1995 Fox released "The Big Noise" to the home market. That movie was reputed to be their worse, so imagine my surprise when I found many parts of the movie funny. The truth is that the post Roach movies are not bad at all. Sure they do not live up to the quality of the teams past movies, but they do stand up to almost anything Abbot and Costello or any other comedians were releasing at the same time. They were the style of comedies that were being made in the 1940's, a time when these movies were filled with gangsters and Nazi spies no matter what studio you worked for. It is what the audiences wanted at that time.
Part of the reason why the later films get such a bad rap is because of the cult of Hal Roach. We are all lead to believe that Roach could do no wrong and if only Laurel and Hardy had stayed at that studio then they would have been making great comedies well into the 1950's. Leaving Roach was suppose to be their worst decision ever. This is far from true. Roach Studios did have an advantage over the other Hollywood studios during the 1920's and 30's as the comedians were given the freedom to craft their own movies. But that freedom began to erode towards the end of the 30's. Roach was phasing out shorts and was going into feature films. This meant more of an investment per picture and therefore Roach was increasingly taking a more hands on approach to each movie to protect his investments. "March Of The Wooden Soldiers" may have become an all time classic, but it was forced on Laurel & Hardy who would have rather been doing a different movie ate that time. More and more their movies were filled with romantic B plots with two other characters. "Blockheads" was just a fluke, a film that Roach had given Laurel full creative control over because it was only being made on the cheap to satisfy some contractual obligations that the studio had with Bank of America. The bank was giving Roach studios a loan, but since the papers were filled with rumors that Stan Laurel was ready to quit and break up the comedy team the bank refused to approve the loan unless they saw that another Laurel & hardy movie was in production and being filmed. Roach and Laurel had an agreement that the team start production on a movie immediately and once the bank approved the loan the movie would be abandoned and the team would go back to writing the pirate movie they were originally developing. Laurel ended up completing half of "Blockheads" and Roach decided to allow him to complete it and release it as a feature. Taking a look at the prior Laurel & Hardy movie "Swiss Miss" you can plainly see that the Roach movies were starting to go downhill with unnecessary musical numbers and romantic subplots. When Laurel returned to the studio in 1939 it was under the agreement that they would do streamliners which were 40 minute movies that were short enough to release as B features but long enough not to be shorts. Both movies were 20 minute plots padded out to 40 minutes, and Roach would later ask the boys to film 20 more minutes of footage for each movie so they could be lengthened to features. This explains their poor pacing compared to the previous movies. It is all possible that if Laurel had agreed to a team contract with Roach that they still would have made forced into making their own version of "Buck Privates" as they would later do at Fox. And lets not forget that Laurel always had the opportunity to resign with Roach to do any movies. The fact that he did not and continued doing movies for Fox and MGM indicated that he would no longer have the artistic freedom at that studio that Roach had given them in the past.
But most of the blame for the poor reputation the Fox era films got was from John McCabe. He was the teams personal biographer and had gotten the impression from comments made by Stan Laurel that the Fox moves were terrible and just got worse with each film. However, it is more likely that Stan was talking about working conditions and studio relations rather than film quality. When Everson released his filmography book "The Complete Films of Laurel & Hardy" he wrote as little as possible on the post Roach movies. The synopsis of each was reduced to as few sentences as possible and the commentary of each was no more than a paragraph which usually commented on how tragic it was that the quality was dropping off with each movie ( Everson's personal opinion ). This would continue in other books including Randy Skretvedt's "Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies" as well as being picked apart in Glenn Mitchell's "Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia". In recent years film historians have begone to take a fresh look at the post Roach movies and are now realizing that they were still good efforts by Laurel and Hardy. For the most part they all had enough good moments to qualify them as comedies and compared to what has passed for comedies since the 1930's especially with current movies they all have more than enough laughs. No they do not have the wall to wall humor that the Roach films had but they are not the garbage that they have been made out to be. And for the most part the 1940's audiences loved these films and they did extremely well at the box office. In other words Laurel & Hardy did leave Hollywood as a success in the eyes of the public. Only the film historians who had access to all of their work, and in the 1950's could compare their 40's films with those from the 20's and 30's, only they knew that the later films were of less quality. For the general public the memory of "Blockheads" faded before "Flying Deuces" came out, and the memory of "Saps At Sea" faded before "Great Guns" came out. There was no television or home video. For all they knew each new Fox movie was as good as all the other Laurel and Hardy movies. Today's Laurel & Hardy fan has access to every one of their films with exception to "Rouges Song" and "Hats Off" and a complete version of "Battle Of The Century". Their DVD collection has every silent short, every Roach sound film ( from overseas unfortunately as Hallmark has not yet released a proper DVD collection in the United States ) and now can own all their 1940's films as both Fox and Warner Brothers are releasing them on DVD. ( they may have to fill their collection with some old and likely used VHS releases, but you get the picture. ) For the first tie we all can watch any Laurel and Hardy film at any time we want, and have the ability to compare for ourselves. In my opinion the later films are weaker than the Roach sound films, but that is like saying that I am weaker than the current Olympic heavy weight lifting champion. Generally I am not a weakling, but I and nearly everyone else reading it could never lift 500 pounds. Similarly the Fox and MGM movies cold never compare to most of the Roach movies. But is it fair to even judge them by comparison? Laurel and Hardy did perform well in their later movies. I would say they make a good introduction to the team for new viewers leading into their masterpieces at Roach a little later ( why not save the best for last? ). Newbies to the team will enjoy most of these movies and then will be in for a complete surprise when they see the earlier films. As for the rest of us who know better, this completes our video collection and despite what any of you may think about the later films they can still make you smile and occasionally break out in laughter, and that is still worth something.
By all rights the movies Laurel and Hardy made for MGM should have been better than the ones they made for Fox. The studio had been releasing Laurel & Hardy movies for decades and they made every effort to produce proper Laurel & Hardy scripts. Instead "AIR RAID WARDENS" is merely passably good while "NOTHING BUT TROUBLE" is a complete failure. Warner Brothers currently has the rights to release all the Laurel & Hardy movies that MGM owns the rights to. A two disc set was released in conjunction with TCM and includes "The Devil's Brother" and "Bonnie Scotland" with the Laurel & Hardy guest appearances from "Hollywood Review" , "Hollywood Party", and "Pick A Star" as well as the surviving clip from "Rogue Song". This leaves no possible bonus material for this double disc other than the film's trailers. Nor does this double set have any audio commentary. I guess the two movies for one price is suppose to be enough.
"AIR RAID WARDENS" was co-written by Charley Rogers who had both directed and written for Laurel and Hardy back at Roach studios along with Jack Jevne who co wrote "Way Out West" with Rogers. MGM even went to the trouble of casting former Roach Studio comedian Edgar Kennedy who by the 1940's had success starring in his own shorts at RKO studios. MGM even had a great choice of director. Edward Sedgwick was a veteran director of slapstick comedy who had worked with Buster Keaton and had directed Laurel & Hardy in "Pick A Star". The movie should have been a return to the quality of the Hal Roach movies, but instead it was far less. The films quality is usually blamed on a technical advisor who was on set to make sure that air raid wardens were not ridiculed. But the real blame here goes to MGM who insisted that once a script was approved then it was shot as is with no rewrites and no ad libs. They also insisted that all comedies have a formula where near the end of the movie the hero reach a low point where they make some sort of self pitying speech before he eventually saves the day and redeems himself. In "Air Raid Wardens" that would be the scene where Laurel and Hardy are kicked out of the corp. The plot has Laurel and Hardy joining the Air Raid Wardens after being rejected by the armed forces for service. However they prove to be screw-ups and are eventually asked to turn in their gear. They redeem themselves by uncovering a Nazi spy ring attempting to blow up a magnesium plant and foil their plans. There are many laughs to be found in this movie, but with the restrictions MGM was putting on how the script was ultimately filmed many more gags failed than worked.
"NOTHING BUT TROBLE" is an excellent example of how the MGM method did not work. The plot has Mary Boland hiring Laurel and Hardy as her butler and cook. Predictably they make a mess of a dinner party and are fired. They eventually find themselves befriending a boy king and foiling an assassination attempt by his uncle. This may have been an unusual plot for a Laurel and Hardy movie, but the script was one of the best that the team had in their entire career. Had they shot this film at Roach studios then they would have had the freedom to play around with the script and improvise jokes on the set. And this script had plenty of great possibilities. Unfortunately the team was not allowed to tamper with it and was forced to shot it as is. The end result is Laurel and Hardy's most lackluster movie where it always seems that a great gag is being set up but never happens. The only thing this film has going for it is director Sam Taylor who had directed Harold Lloyd in his classic thrill movies back at Roach Studios. Here he gets to end the movie with Laurel and Hardy hanging from a ledge which turns out to be the movies high point. However the rest of the movie is a disappointment as anyone can see the potential that MGM prevented Laurel and Hardy from realizing."