Episode Description: The Laurel & Hardy Collection Volume 2 contains 3 classic comedies A-Haunting We Will Go, Dancing Masters, and Bullfighters. These titles are all available for the first time on DVD in a slipcase for $... more »34.98 & $46.98. Disk 1: A-HAUNTING WE WILL GO (1942) *Full Frame Feature **Commentary by Randy Skretvedt **Movietone News **Theatrical Trailer Disk 2: THE DANCING MASTERS (1943) *Full Frame Feature **Commentary by Scott MacGillivray **A Ship's Reporter **Grand Hotel: The 1932 Laurel & Hardy Tour **Trailers Disk 3: BULLFIGHTERS (1945) *Full Frame Feature **Commentary by Scott MacGillivray **Laurel & Hardy: The Fox Years **Trailers« less
Five stars for issuing these on DVD. This pre-release review
Scott MacGillivray | Massachusetts, USA | 06/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fox has made Laurel & Hardy collectors and completists very happy by preparing this companion volume of Laurel & Hardy's 1940s features, which have been out of circulation for years.
THE DANCING MASTERS (1943) is a relaxed hour of nonsense, as Stan and Ollie operate a dancing school, hide in a society mansion, wreck a ray gun, invade a construction site, upset an auction, ride a runaway bus... and that's just PART of it! Episodic as all getout, but Stan and Ollie are in practically every scene and they time their laughs beautifully. Good supporting cast (Bob Bailey, Trudy Marshall, Margaret Dumont, Matt Briggs); watch for a young Robert Mitchum. Fun for the whole family.
A-HAUNTING WE WILL GO (1942), featuring Dante the Magician, is a misguided attempt to turn Laurel & Hardy into Abbott & Costello. Stan and Ollie struggle visibly with an ill-fitting, contemptuous script and oblivious, humorless direction. The silver lining for movie buffs is a dream '40s cast of familiar faces: Mantan Moreland, Elisha Cook, Jr., Richard Lane, Robert Emmett Keane, Sheila Ryan, Lou Lubin, Addison Richards, and more. Pretend it's a Charlie Chan murder mystery that somehow includes Laurel & Hardy.
THE BULLFIGHTERS (1945) has the boys as private detectives in Mexico City, where Stan has to pose as a daring matador. The reliable Richard Lane and Edward Gargan are their main comic foils here, and Diosa Costello has a lively Latin musical specialty. Plenty of typical Laurel & Hardy gags and pantomime (two scenes were written and directed by Stan Laurel without screen credit). Some L & H admirers may regard this as a lackluster recycling of old routines, but Laurel & Hardy are obviously on familiar ground and they deliver the routines with enthusiasm.
The three-DVD set includes bonus features. All three feature films have audio commentaries. The plum for collectors is THE TREE IN A TEST TUBE, the team's only surviving color film, appearing here in a complete, vivid, first-edition print. Oliver Hardy is seen in a 1950 TV interview with "Ship's Reporter" Jack Mangan. A new mini-documentary, produced especially for this set, includes film clips and interviews (Terry Moore talks about her appearance in A-HAUNTING WE WILL GO).
The Laurel & Hardy features in Volume One are very pretty, with excellent picture and sound. These films in Volume Two should be equally attractive.
Three 1940's Laurel and Hardy films
Dean Wisland | Vernon Hills, Illinois USA | 06/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Between 1941 and 1945, Laurel and Hardy made six films for 20th Century Fox and 2 more for MGM. Many people feel this was their low point in their film canon. However, in recent years, these films have been rediscovered and reapraised. True, these films are not as good as their films made at Hal Roach Studios, but they do have many funny moments. Three Fox films, Great Guns, Jitterbugs, and The Big Noise were released on DVD earlier this year. This set has three more films. They are: 1. The Dancing Masters. From 1943, the boys run a dancing school and the boyfriend of one of their students invents a invisible ray machine, and Stan and Ollie try to help him raise funds to help. This film is somewhat erratic, like a bunch of skits put together. The auction scene from their short Thicker than water is redone, as well as a scene from County Hospital. Still, the film does have its moments, and watch for Marx Brothers star Margret Dumont, as well as 26 year old Robert Mitchum as a con man. 2. A haunting we will go. From 1942,the boys are vagrants who must leave town within 24 hours. They answer a ad for a free train trip, but they must accompany a coffin(!). However the coffin has a very much alive fugitive in it. Stan and Ollie get bilked out of what money they have, and Dante the Magician offers them jobs as his assisiants. This is probably Laurel and Hardys worst film. 3. The Bullfighters. From 1945, Stan and Ollie are detectives who go to Mexico City in search of a woman fugitive. Turns out a man they helped sent to jail (who was actually innocent) is in Mexico city and vowed to skin them alive if he ever saw them. Turns out Stan resembles a famous bullfighter, and must impersonate the bullfighter to avoid the angry man who wants to skin them. Possibly the best of the Fox films, it has two scenes that were directed (without credit) by Stan himself. They were the water fight scene in the hotel lobby and an egg breaking scene reprised from the 1934 film Hollywood Party with Lupe Velez. Included are commentaries by Laurel and Hardy historians Scott MacGillivray and Randy Skretvet, a documentary about the Fox years, films of their 1932 tour of the United Kingdom, trailers, movietone news clips, and more. Thanks to Fox for putting these films out. Sound and Picture should be as great as the first set, and lets hope that Nothing but Trouble and Air Raid Wardens, the two MGM films, will also be released on DVD."
Stronger than the previous Fox set
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 02/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found the films contained in this set to generally be funnier and stronger than the ones on the first volume. While it's true that L&H's career after they left Hal Roach is kind of hit and miss, it's not true that everything they did after 1940 is horrible and deserves to be dismissed out of hand without letting the viewer judge for oneself or without a modern critical re-evaluation of these films. I wish more people would realise that these films are *different* than their Hal Roach films, not inferior per se. They actually have many very funny moments and some pretty decent scripts, if one can get past the popular misconception about them being unwatchable garbage.
'The Bullfighters' (filmed in late 1944 but released in 1945) is easily the strongest of the three. Its strength is due in no small part to how they finally had gotten a sizeable amount of creative control back by this time, and how Stan wrote and directed (without credit) at least two of the scenes. It also seems like one of their Hal Roach films, and they seem far more in character than they do in some of the other Fox films. The boys are private detectives who go to Mexico in search of a woman nicknamed Larceny Nell, but after failing to arrest her, in one of the scenes Stan wrote and directed, they find themselves having to hide from Richard Muldoon, a man they sent to prison years ago. They believed Muldoon was a murderer, but it turned out that he was innocent and the real criminal confessed. Stan is able to hide his true identity because he looks exactly like Don Sebastian, a matador whose arrival in town is delayed due to troubles with his passport, but Ollie has more trouble avoiding running into Muldoon. The only real fault I could find with this film is that it ends without resolving the subplot about Larceny Nell, like that part of the plot was developed and then just dropped. This film is only an hour long, so it's not like it was anywhere near running overtime and had to be ended right then.
'The Dancing Masters' (1943) is the second-best film on here. It also helps that some of the scenes are remakes of scenes in some of their earlier films, such as the auction scene in 'Thicker Than Water' and the idea of insuring Stan so that they can collect a lot of money on his injury, which was a big part of the plot in 'The Battle of the Century.' It's hysterically funny throughout, and for once the subplot featuring a young couple doesn't really drag the story down, as it does in some of their other Fox films. This film also features a young Robert Mitchum in a minor role as one of the men who sells them the insurance policy, and the always wonderful Margaret Dumont as the mother of their friend and student Trudy. Here the boys are dancing teachers, with Stan once again in drag when he teaches his class (although unlike the other times when he dressed in drag in their films, here he's not pretending to be a woman and isn't wearing a wig). Although they're really behind on their rent and other living expenses, they're hopeful that Trudy's boyfriend Grant will come through for them when they get rich on his inventions, in particular a very potent ray gun intended for use against the Nazis. Things are complicated because not only does Trudy's father hate Stan and Ollie, he also hates Grant and is hoping Trudy will marry a young man more to his liking, Wentworth Harlan. Though this film is also very funny, I was rather disappointed by how it seemed to end rather abruptly, with not a lot of resolution to most of the plotlines.
'A-Haunting We Will Go' (1942) is the weakest film on here. Stan and Ollie have just been thrown out of jail and are ordered to leave town very soon, or else, and think they've found an easy way out when they see a newspaper advertisement for someone to travel to Dayton, Ohio, all expenses paid. They run terrified when they find out this means travelling with a coffin with a corpse (so they think) inside, but go back and say they'll do it when they see a cop. Little do they know that they've just gotten mixed up with a bunch of gangsters and con men, nor that their coffin gets mixed up with a coffin to be used by Dante the Magician in his upcoming show. On the train to Dayton, they get swindled some more, but Dante comes to their rescue and befriends them, asking them to assist in his upcoming show. The gangsters of course discover they've gotten the wrong coffin, and go to Dayton to confront them and to try to get their living cohort out of that coffin before their criminal plan is discovered. This film just doesn't have a lot of flavor in it, and the boys seem more like supporting characters than the leading comedians at times. It's also not consistently funny, though there are some very funny scenes in it. As with other of their weaker Fox films, they just seem out of character, indistinguishable from any other comedians, and worse yet not only aware of their stupidity but also the brunt of a bunch of jokes and comments from other characters about how stupid they are. They're supposed to be dumb, but in a sweet endearing way, like two overgrown little boys, not constantly being made fun of and swindled by nearly everyone in their path on account of it.
Extras include audio commentaries, trailers, their 1943 Technicolor short 'Tree in a Test Tube' (which is available on several other releases), a short interview with Ollie on the 1950s program 'A Ship's Reporter,' a mini-documentary on the boys' years at Fox, footage of Fox Movietone News, and two silent 1932 newsreels featuring their visit to England. These two newsreels are also available on the Kino release of 'The Flying Deuces,' but here I found them much more enjoyable and lively because they actually had a soundtrack, instead of being pure silence. While this isn't a release I'd recommend to new or casual fans, overall the films are funnier and stronger than the ones on the previous volume."
Awsome release (plus message for HALLMARK)
ferrell | colorado | 08/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm giving this release 5 stars just for being released on dvd,I think it's a shame that now we have all the post hal roach movies on dvd within the last year,including the upcoming twofer of "air raid wardens" and "Nothing but trouble",but HALLMARK (which owns the hal roach fims) has only released 2 l&h dvds in the last 6 years,as far as the content on this dvd I have only seen the "bullfighters" and find it to be a very good movie,that alone is worth the 5 stars (although not as good as "nothing but trouble" which in my opinion is the best post hal roach movie),also I want to see an officially released unedited first generation copy of "atol k",also known as "Utopia" released in the near future,then all we have to worry about is HALLMARK and their crappy treatment of the boys.."
Volume Two, another nugget for fans
Phil S. | USA | 09/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Three high quality prints of sometimes low quality material - the fans and historians know about the disappointing L & Hs of the '40s. The Special Feature commentary by author Scott MacGillivray (Vol. One ofcourse has Randy Skredvedt in that mode) explains alot of the incongruities. Yes, the Boys were contracted to comedy B-pictures for companies specializing in drama. Just as with Volume One, we can see how reappraisal is warranted - in two of the three, anyway. The 1942 A HAUNTING WE WILL GO speaks volume by the title alone - it is a throw-away title; and the story is more *horror*/suspense than slapstick. Alot more. As Scott says, Laurel and Hardy are on hand to react to the depressing proceedings - switched coffins, con men, etc. But titles and stories aside (and the story itself is okay), the stars must work with a script which consistently calls for revision of their characters. Stan, especially, is almost *annoyingly* dumb. Ollie fares a bit better, but is required to manhandle his teammate, as if he's a defiant child. Speaking of Mr. Hardy, probably the one good scene is set on a train where the Boys have been duped into believing that they have bought, for practically nothing, an invention which can help mankind: a money-making machine with a hand crank, said to be authorized for selected use among the financially burdened. He delivers a beautiful soliliquey in perhaps his best acting job, ever! His face has a beatific glow and his voice resonates warmy in this unexpected, impromptu-style philosophical monolgue. This startling moment actually foreshadows another nice verbal exposition in the 1951 ATOLL K, when L & H and company are temporarily set adrift in the Soyth Seas (on their way to an atoll - a kind of substitute island for the one they've been awarded through an inheritance). Ollie's fine acting here can be sensed as an influence on Jackie Gleason when he did "Soldier In The Rain", and spoke his last words to Steve McQueen. The next year we have a real comedy, THE DANCING MASTERS. For the most part, L & H are in character in typical situations. It's a disjointed deal, but their style of comedy is successful when it's *funny* more than sensible. They start out as dancing instructors, spend a few moments as ersatz inventors, then wind up nearly destroying an amusement park. The photography is fine - the opening dance sequence, brilliantly shot, featuring Hardy and chorus girls is one of the best scenes he's ever done; the editing and pacing is a notch above for their post-Hal Roach period. Downside: Hardy is forced to play Laurel's antagonist and it is sad to watch. They need money, so the plan is for Stan to sustain an injury so as to collect insurance money. Carefully written dialogue and tight direction might have made it work. Ofcourse Ollie has roughed up his pal before but not for any particular purpose. Another unnecessary scene is at the amusement park: Stan stumbles out of the out of control bus carrying Ollie, and find himself in a stand set up for baseballs to be thrown through a hole, resulting in a prize. His head protrudes through the hole and we are supposed to laugh when ball after ball strike him on the forehead. Altogether it is one of their best '40s films - it has the right "look", and the romantic subplot does not work against the comedy; there are many Laurel and Hardy-isms throughout. Much has been written about the 1945 THE BULLFIGHTERS. It's their best put-together effort of the group, traditional comedy all the way through. The movie could have made better use of the actors, and missed alot of opportunity to really sell a scene, but the plot involving Stan as a look-alike Matador is right to the point. An enjoyable extra is a documentary on these later efforts. Some rare stills make it essential for the fan."