Two silents, two Spanky films, and a brief history
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 04/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This second DVD in the two-volume Hal Roach's Rascals set features another mishmash of old silent films alongside more familiar classics from the heyday years. The Fourth Alarm (1926) is one of the best early silent Rascals films I have seen, as the kids are made honorary firemen and put together their own fire station, complete with ingenious fire-fighting vehicles. When a real fire breaks out, they are pushed back by the fire chief but manage to save the day by removing all the explosive chemicals housed in the back of the burning building. Olympic Games (1927) is a feature I'm not particularly fond of, however. The kids are training for their own Olympics, but it is really the dog Pete (referred to by another name in this early film) who steals the show by perfecting the art of giving the kids the raspberry treatment. Moving ahead a few years, we have Hi Neighbor (1934) featuring a very young Spanky. This is really one of my all-time favorite episodes from my own childhood. When a rich new kid moves to town with his own fancy fire truck, the kids decide to build a fire truck of their own. This effort culminates in a wild race down a steep hill, with the gangs' fire truck moving in many directions all at once; the sight of pedestrians flying up into the air as the vehicle veered off onto the sidewalk was probably the funniest thing I ever remember seeing as a kid. Then there is Spooky Hooky (1936), a later classic starring Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, and Porky. After learning the teacher is taking the whole class to the circus, the boys sneak into school on a dark and stormy night to reclaim the note Spanky left claiming they were going to be sick. Porky manages to frighten the kids in a number of imaginative, hilarious ways.The last entry (strangely placed third in the viewing lineup) is a Hollywood Hall of Fame tribute to Our Gang. While this does feature some good information on the progression of the kids from the silent days to the end of the Rascals' 22-year run, it consists almost entirely of clips from the films of this two-volume set; having just watched all of these episodes, this makes for less than riveting viewing. It does also mention a few of the struggles of several kids in their post-Rascals days and as such can be a little depressing. As far as extras go, this DVD features the exact same short history of Hal Roach's Rascals and short biographies of Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Butch, Mickey, and Jackie Cooper that you will find on Volume 1. If you want to see Spanky and the Gang, this DVD is probably not for you; while you do get two of the more familiar, 1930s films, the early silent movies may not be to your liking. As a means of introduction to the original silent era incarnation of Our Gang, however, this collection serves the viewer quite well."