Definitely A Mixed Bag.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 08/20/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This new 2 DVD set from Kino from their SLAPSTICK SYMPOSIUM series showcases the talents of a pre-Oliver Hardy Stan Laurel and it's definitely a mixed bag. Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson) began as an English Music Hall comedian who was Chaplin's understudy when they came to America. While Chaplin quickly went on to fame and fortune, Stan labored for a number of outfits as a gag writer, director and performer. This collection features his work for Hal Roach in the early 20's and his own series of Stan Laurel comedies from the mid 20's.
The biggest problem with many of these shorts especially the later ones is that Stan had yet to find a character that worked for him and he had yet to develop his comic timing. Since we don't identify with his character, he wears out his welcome way too soon. Many of the gags are brilliant and the situations quite funny but they go on far too long. The best shorts are the parodies such as THE SOILERS, ROUGHEST AFRICA, and especially DR PYCKLE AND MR PRYDE which is a truly hilarious send-up of the 1920 John Barrymore film. Others indulge in ethnic humor (SHORT KILTS, NEAR DUBLIN) and a few are downright bizarre and very hard to follow (HALF A MAN, THE SLEUTH).
As good as he was, Stan needed someone to play off of and his teaming with Oliver Hardy allowed his comic genius to reach its full potential. A lot of the material on display here and many of Stan's mannerisms would be put to much better use in the L&H comedies. And so despite the 3 star rating I recommend this set for the Hal Roach shorts and for the opportunity of watching Stan honing his craft. Most of the shorts are in good condition considering how rare they are and the piano accompaniment by Neil Brand is a perfect fit. By the way you can catch Ollie (billed as "Babe" sans mustache) in the last short YES YES NANETTE where he's directed by Stan."
A great comic in transition.
Robert Badgley | London,Ontario,Canada | 02/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1923 to 1925 to Stan Laurel was a period of transition for one of the greatest comedians/gag men of 20th century film.
Starting out with one foot still firmly planted on the vaudeville stages of the United States and Canada Stan Laurels' films of this period made first for film producers Hal Roach,then Joe Rock then back to Roach would see him in the end stay in the film medium for good.
Watching these films reveals a comedian of the first order.He displays his skills with an ease and aplomb that equalled or excelled Chapln,Keaton and Lloyd.And there certainly were very few who could equal his mastery of the gag which he is responsible for throughout most of these films.
Most of these films have been previousy released on video and DVD but these transfers are for the most part quite superior to anythng I've seen before.They are for the most part quite crisp and clear which make them a joy to watch and own.
This Stan Laurel is not the Stan of Laurel and Hardy(which was less than two years away) but in these films are definite signs of the future persona that the public would come to know and love.
And this was unfortunately the crux of the question of why Stan didn't become a "hit" before his future teaming with Oliver Hardy.He didn't have a standout "hook" or persona that grabbed the publics' attention like Keaton or Chaplin had.
This ultmately caused Stan to move from in front of the camera to behind it where he was quite happy to write and direct until fate kindly brought he and screen veteran Oliver Hardy together in front of the camera where the two would go on to make film history as the greatest film comedy team of all time.
The Stan Laurel Collection is essential film history.I recommend this two disc set very highy."