Abbott and Costello/Laurel and Hardy [4 Discs] [DVD]
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In their first starring feature away from the Hal Roach studios, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy play a couple of fish peddlers from Des Moines on a Cook's Tour of Paris. While stopping over at quaint suburban inn, Ollie falls in love with innkeeper's daughter Georgette (Jean Parker). At Stan's prodding, Ollie pops the question to Georgette, who gently refuses because there is Someone Else. Disconsolately, Ollie decides to commit suicide by jumping into the Seine, insisting that Stan join him in his plunge to oblivion. The boys are halted from this drastic action by the timely arrival of Francois (Reginald Gardiner), an officer in the French Foreign Legion. Francois convinces Stan and Ollie that they'll forget all about Ollie's lost love if they join the Legion, and within a few days our heroes are in uniform at an outpost in French Morocco, where they are promptly assigned to laundry detail. Alas, try as he might, Ollie can't forget his beloved Georgette-until Stan suggests that he pretend to forget so that they can get back in their own clothes and head home. This Ollie does, but not before accidentally setting fire to a mountain of laundry. After leaving behind a rather nasty letter of resignation for their scowling commandant (Charles Middleton), Stan and Ollie pack their bags and head for the airport-where Ollie is reunited with Georgette, who turns out to be the wife of their commanding officer Francois! Sentenced to death for desertion, the boys tunnel their way out of their jail cell and hide out in an airplane, which Stan accidentally sends into flight. After a wild and noisy ride, the plane crashes, leading to the flm's hilarious-and somehow touching--"freak" ending. Officially a remake of Les Aviateurs, a French vehicle for Fernandel and Toto, The Flying Deuces also owes a lot to the earlier Laurel & Hardy Foreign Legion farce Beau Hunks. Highlights include Stan and Ollie's impromptu soft-shoe rendition of "Shine on Harvest Moon", and Stan's lunatic excursion into Harpo Marx territory as he plays a bed-spring "harp". Produced by Boris Morros and released by RKO Radio, Flying Deuces is unquestionably the best of Laurel & Hardy's non-Hal Roach vehicles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello temporarily leave their usual Universal stamping grounds to star in the Huntington Hartford production Africa Screams. Costello plays the colorfully inept Stanley Livingstone, a meek book salesman who poses as a big-game hunter at the behest of his shifty pal Buzz Johnson (Abbott). It's all part of a scheme to extract some money from adventuress Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke), who intends to search for a lost diamond mine in the heart of Africa. It seems that Stanley has committed to memory a long out-of-print book which contained a map to the mine. Despite his mortal fear of wild animals, Stanley accompanies Buzz, Diana, and Diana's henchmen on the African expedition. The subsequent comic complications involve a legendary giant gorilla, a cannibal tribe, and a friendly orangutan who falls in love with Stanley. Animal trainer Clyde Beatty and big-game tracker Frank Buck make cameo appearances while character comics Shemp Howard and Joe Besser provide laughs as, respectively, a nearsighted gunman and a sissified flunky. Also on hand are boxer brothers Max Baer and Buddy Baer, who engage in an amusingly unconvincing display of fisticuffs. But the film belongs to Abbott & Costello, who are in fine form. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
In their very last feature film, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy travel to London so that Stan can claim his uncle's inheritance. All of the cash has been eaten up by taxes, but at least Stan is able to claim a tax-free island and yacht that his uncle has left him. Boarding the yacht (actually a run-down tub) in Marseilles, Stan and Ollie set sail for their island in the company of stateless refugee Max Elloy, who signs on as a cook, and Italian bricklayer Adriano Rimoldi, a stowaway. The little party is nearly torn to bits by a storm at sea, but the yacht runs safely aground on a newly formed atoll. Its population is increased to five when nightclub singer Suzy Delair, fleeing her domineering naval-officer fiancé Luigi Tosi, takes refuge with the other castaways. Laurel & Hardy and their friends live an idyllic, Robinson Crusoe-like existence until Delair's fiancé shows up. He announces he hasn't come to claim her, but to investigate reports that the atoll is rich with uranium. Indeed it is, and soon every nation in the world is clamoring to claim the island's radioactive deposits. Laurel and Hardy take quick action, declaring sovereignty over "Crusoeland." They then devise an anarchic government over which Ollie presides. Stan is relegated to the position of "The People." Comical chaos reigns when their "no laws, no taxes" policies attract the attention of various unsavory types, including rabble-rouser Michael Dalmatoff. Filmed over a period of 12 months, this expensive Franco-Italian co-production suffers from a too-complex plot, lazy direction, poor voice-over dubbing of the largely European supporting cast, and especially the horrible physical condition of Laurel, who was suffering from several life-threatening illnesses during filming. Fortunately, he regained his health after the production wrapped, as proven by his hale-and-hearty appearance on a 1954 installment of TV's This Is Your Life. Though some disciples of Laurel and Hardy will have a great deal of difficulty sitting through Atoll K, it does contain a few isolated moments of pantomimic brilliance and first-rate sight gags. Originally running 98 minutes, Atoll K was judiciously pruned down to 82 minutes for its English-language release. In Great Britain, the film was titled Robinson Crusoeland, while it was released as Utopia in America. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Jack and the Beanstalk
In 1952, the comedy team of Abbott and Costello entered into a joint agreement with producer Alex Gottlieb and Warner Brothers, whereby two color musical comedies would be produced: Bud Abbott would serve as producer--owner of one of the films, while Lou Costello would do same for the other. Costello's contribution to this agreement was Jack and the Beanstalk, a kiddie-matinee adaptation of the famed fairy tale. Constructed along the lines of The Wizard of Oz, the film begins in black and white. Jack (Costello) is a professional baby-sitter, while Dink (Abbott) is Jack's "agent." After a run-in with a gargantuan cop (Buddy Baer) and a statuesque waitress (Dorothy Ford), Jack and Dink show up at the home of Eloise Larkin (Shaye Cogan), there to look after Eloise's troublesome nephew Donald (David Stollery) while the girl and her boyfriend Arthur Royal (James Alexander) rehearse at their community theatre. While reading the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to the bratty Donald, Jack falls asleep, and begins dreaming himself, and his cohorts, into the story as the impoverished boy sent out to sell the family cow. While en route to town with his cow, he encounters a shady butcher (Abbott) who bilks him out of his broken-down bovine for the price of a few 'magic' beans. In keeping with the traditional tale, Jack plants the beans and from them a magnificent vine grows and reaches into the clouds. Along with the butcher, Jack climbs into a fantastic world inhabited by a terrifying giant (Baer) and other magical creatures, including a gold egg-laying hen, a singing harp, and a distressed prince and princess. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Cast & Crew
- Stan Laurel - Stan
- Oliver Hardy - Oliver
- Jean Parker - Georgette
- Reginald Gardiner - Francois
- Charles B. Middleton - Commandant