The Stan Laurel Collection
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Before his famous teaming with Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel was for eight years one of the most important Hollywood comics of his time, competing at the same level with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. These very rare 16 films, shot between 1923 and 1925 and restored to their original versions, enable the audience to discover the hidden side of this immense genius of slapstick comedy. rom the parodies of popular films from the 1920 ("Roughest Africa," "The Soilers") to the hilarious social ("Frozen Hearts," "Short Kilts") or familial ("Mother's Joy," "yes, Yes, Nanette") satires, ending with real jewels of the slapstick genre ("Oranges and Lemons," "Postage Due"), Stan Laurel is irresistible. His understanding of storytelling and charming humor have stood the test of time.
The great Stan Laurel was 37 years old when he definitively teamed up with Oliver Hardy in 1927. So what had he done up till then? The Stan Laurel Collection valuably fills in a gap, with 17 comedy shorts Laurel made for producer Hal Roach between 1923 and 1925. Laurel was already a veteran vaudevillian, with many previous stabs at film work, when he embarked on this series for Roach. The comic personality on display will not be instantly familiar to Laurel and Hardy fans. In a frantic piece like Oranges and Lemons, Laurel is much closer to the acrobatic mischief of Chaplin than to the slow-burning simpleton he perfected opposite Hardy. Laurel was a busy gag-writer and worked on story and direction as well, and it says something about his imagination that these shorts range all over the planet for their settings: Frozen Hearts parodies Russian melodrama (and allows Stan a wonderfully daft Russian dance), Roughest Africa spoofs the African travelogue, with Laurel battling lion and elephant. Movie parodies were a Laurel specialty; Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride is a send-up of a certain Robert Louis Stevenson story, with Laurel's monster an unexpected demonic treat. The final short on disc 2 is Yes, Yes, Nanette, co-directed by Laurel and starring Jimmy Finlayson, a frequent stooge in these shorts. In a supporting role, there's "Babe" Hardy, pointing the way toward greatness. These shorts are fun, but Laurel and Hardy needed each other. --Robert Horton
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This disc is beautifully set up with outstanding restorations of rare films. Now if they had only included the Valentino parody, MUD AND SAND...it would have gotten five stars from me.
Comedy buffs and fans of the Boys will have to have this one in their collections.
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.