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Stan Laurel Collection, Vol. 2 [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Short Orders
In the early '20s, comics would pump out one and two-reel films based on the slightest of plots but rich in gags. Such was Short Orders, a one-reeler made by Stan Laurel for Hal Roach. Stan works at a small café, doubling as waiter and as assistant to the chef (George Rowe). Stan and the cook have to deal with very out-of-the-ordinary food -- bread that must be cut with a cross saw, leaping Limburger -- and the barely edible results are served to an evermore-disgruntled clientele. The cashier (Katherine Grant) starts crying and Stan pays so much attention to her that he accidentally serves a customer a shoe's sole instead of a steak. The diner is so infuriated that Stan has to quit. As he's leaving, he raises his umbrella to bang his boss on the head and silverware comes raining out of it. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Pie-Eyed
For the whole two reels of this comedy, Stan Laurel plays a drunk, and, while some have compared this film to Charles Chaplin's One A.M., in reality it's nowhere near as funny. Stan's drunkenness completely disrupts the goings-on at a nightclub, and finally the club's owner (Glen Cavender) throws him out. A cop finds the helpless, inebriated Stan and escorts him home -- except that he's taken the address from a card in Stan's pocket, and it's the business card of the nightclub owner. When the nightclub owner comes home and finds Stan in his bed, all hell breaks loose, but Stan manages to escape both his antagonist and the cops. Although this is not one of Laurel's best comedies as a solo artist, it does have its moments -- one of the funniest happens almost completely out of camera frame. The nightclub owner, fed up with Stan, makes him stand up. The two men can only be seen from the chest down, with the nightclub owner's arm swinging. When Stan sits down again, he has a black eye. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Smithy
This is one of the more well-known Stan Laurel solo comedies, but in truncated form -- much of the Army footage is usually left out. It actually begins with Smithy (Laurel) as a private, making life miserable for his irascible sergeant (James Finlayson, who had a special talent for irascibility). When he finally enters civilian life, he has a hard time finding a job but finally lands work on a construction crew. But Smithy is no better at building a house than he was in the army -- he can barely get a roll of tar paper up to the roof. To make matters even more interesting, his old sergeant winds up being one of the workers, too, and once again he finds himself at the mercy of Smithy's eternal ineptitude. The owner of the firm decides to promote a certain Smith (Glenn Tryon) to foreman, but the secretary (Ena Gregory) thinks he means Smithy, and hands him the letter containing the promotion. Smithy has a field day with his new title, and immediately fires his old sergeant. The freshly built house keels over into a heap and Smithy (along with his old sergeant) both rejoin the service. Some of the jokes in this two-reeler wound up in the Laurel and Hardy silent, The Finishing Touch. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Rupert of Hee-Haw
Although this Stan Laurel two-reeler -- a parody of 1923's Rupert of Hentzau -- was handsomely produced, the jokes were slapstick at their crudest. There's a lot of kicking rear ends and slipping on banana peels. The King (Laurel) is constantly drunk, much to the disgust of the princess (Ena Gregory), who decides to have him overthrown. Traveling salesman Rudolph Razz (also Laurel) shows up at the palace and turns out to be the exact double of The King. It's an easy enough task to get the King away from the palace and put Razz in his place. Unfortunately the traveling salesman has no idea of court protocol and one of the irked men (the always-irked James Finlayson) challenges Razz to a sword fight. The battle is interrupted when the real King shows up, and he defeats his double and returns to his throne. Laurel's common-law wife, Mae Laurel, plays the Queen, and Sammy "Sunshine" Morrison -- one of the best child actors of the silent era -- has a small part, as do a couple other members of the Our Gang team. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Do You Love Your Wife?
Stan Laurel's first one-reel film for Hal Roach (whose production company at the time was Rolin) never does answer the question asked by its title; in fact, love doesn't seem to factor much into the equation at all. Laurel plays an apartment building janitor who causes a number of domestic spats while performing in the line of duty. In what would become a common theme in Hal Roach pictures, the angry wives give their husbands a very hard time. Although they wouldn't meet again for many years, Laurel's future wife, then known as Lois Nelson, was part of the cast. Also appearing is James Parrott, who would be on Roach's staff, either as an actor or director, for many years (he was also the brother of another, future Roach actor, Charley Chase). Laurel began performing for Hal Roach and Rolin after the producer lost his current star, the famous but highly eccentric circus clown, Toto. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Kill or Cure
This one-reel comedy that Stan Laurel made for Hal Roach was basically a remake of a film he did the year before for Gilbert M. Anderson, The Pest. It even begins the same way: Laurel, a door-to-door salesman, is trying to sell his wares in front of an institute for the deaf. He tries making hand signals to a woman (Helen Gilmore), but she takes affront to his motions and charges after him. Stan's product this time around is a patent medicine that supposedly cures just about everything. No one is interested in it, however, except for one drunk (Mark Jones), who wants it because he has run out of bootleg liquor. Undaunted, Stan continues to hound prospective customers; he even proves that his medicine would make a great car wax, but his efforts are futile and the car's owner (Noah Young) turns him down. Finally he comes upon four apartment doors in a row and knocks on all of them. The angry woman from the film's start is behind one of the doors and Stan quickly runs away. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Noon Whistle
Early on in his new contact with producer Hal Roach, Stan Laurel shot a comic short that had much of the same material as a two-reeler he made the year before, The Egg. Since The Noon Whistle was only one reel, however, the superfluous subplot about the company president being blackmailed was dumped. Most of this picture involves the slapstick antics between Laurel, as Tanglefoot -- the worst employee at a lumberyard -- and the foreman, O'Hallahan (James Finlayson). O'Hallahan has been told to get the lazy workers off their cans and his biggest problem is Tanglefoot. Eventually, Tanglefoot and his irascible boss get involved in a battle of nerves that escalates until one of them gets fired -- O'Hallahan. This was the first of countless times Finlayson and Laurel would work together. In fact, when Laurel formed a comic team with Oliver Hardy, Finlayson would become their most well-remembered onscreen victim. The Noon Whistle bears some resemblance to a later Laurel and Hardy short, 1933's Busy Bodies (which did not feature Finlayson). ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Under Two Jags
In 1923, Stan Laurel signed a five-year contract with producer Hal Roach (in reality he would be there for only a year before moving over to Joe Rock). Laurel's comic shorts were meant to alternate with those made by Paul Parrott. This one-reeler, which was a parody of Under Two Flags only in title, was the first comedy Laurel made under the new contract. A stranger (Laurel) makes his way to an outpost in the middle of the Sahara and joins the Foreign Legion. Cheroot, the "daughter of the regiment" (Mae Laurel, Stan's common-law wife), falls for him, as does Princess (Katherine Grant). To please Princess, the stranger whittles a set of dinner knives for her. The Commanding Officer (William Gillespie) slices his mouth on one of the knives and angrily orders Stan to be shot at sunrise. A grave is dug for him, but Cheroot manages to come to his rescue, and the officer falls into the grave instead. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Pick and Shovel
Although this Hal Roach one-reel comedy features two very funny men -- Stan Laurel and James Finlayson -- unfortunately, it's not very funny. Most of the gags had been used before, or would be used in the future more effectively. As they would often be in subsequent films, Laurel and Finlayson are at comic odds here. Stan shows up for his job wearing a top hat and tux, only to change into his real work clothes, which reveal he is a miner. In spite of the film's title, Laurel spends very little time with a pick or a shovel and instead hangs around, flirting with the foreman's daughter (Katherine Grant). This, of course, does not please the foreman (Finlayson) one bit, and his fury becomes ever more apparent (as only Finlayson could do). Stan, however, proves his mettle when the mine floods. He saves the foreman's daughter, winning approval all around. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Just Rambling Along
Stan Laurel is surprisingly low key in this comic one-reeler, which he made for Hal Roach's company, Rolin. Generally, in his early work, he was hyperactive, very much different from his slow, measured persona later on when he teamed up with Oliver Hardy. Here, Laurel's calmer demeanor makes him quite a likeable hero. Stan has no money, and when he finds a wallet, he thinks he has struck gold. Unfortunately a little boy sees it too, and both of them fight for it until the kid's father -- a policeman (Noah Young) -- shows up. Still without funds, Stan is then lured into a café by a woman, but is quickly kicked out. After managing to get a dime from the kid, he goes back in to order a meal. He sits next to the woman, who switches checks on him and then leaves. Since the bill's amount is more than he has to pay, the chef (Bud Jamison) tosses him out, and he lands on the policeman. This is the earliest Stan Laurel film that is still in existence. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Hustling for Health
This was the last comedy Stan Laurel made for Hal Roach's Rolin studios (he would return to Roach five years later and eventually team up with Oliver Hardy there). Stan misses the train that's supposed to take him on a vacation, so his friend (Frank Terry) offers to put him up for some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, the friend's wife (Marie Mosquini) is a hardcore suffragette and she gives her husband an angry dressing down for bringing Stan home. A health inspector (Noah Young) orders the friend to clean up his backyard, and Stan is put to work at the chore. He empties the yard by tossing all the junk into the neighbor's yard, and when the wife refuses to make him lunch, he also steals the neighbor's food. The neighbor (Bud Jamison) comes over for lunch, and is none too pleased to discover that he is eating his own food. Stan beats a hasty retreat, but not before flirting with the neighbor's daughter. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Get 'Em Young
Stan Laurel had quit acting -- at least temporarily -- to focus on his work as a writer and director. This Hal Roach comedy got him back in front of the cameras and legend has it that the role he played here -- as Summers, the valet to Harry Myers -- was originally meant for Oliver Hardy. Hardy, however, had burnt himself in a cooking accident and was unavailable, so Laurel was pressed into service. Once Laurel was back acting, it wasn't long before he and Hardy would be appearing together and making film history. Orvid Joy (Myers) is on a ship returning to America so he can collect his inheritance. During the voyage, he falls in love with a girl (Eugenia Gilbert) and they marry. In the States, his lawyer, Issac Goldberg (Max Davidson), has arranged a marriage because Joy cannot collect his inheritance without a bride. He wires Joy that his "wife" will be waiting for him when the ship docks. Joy's new bride misunderstands and thinks he's a bigamist so she storms off. Joy is in a panic because he can't get married to someone else -- that would really make him a bigamist. All he can do, it seems, is hire a female impersonator. His valet, Summers, is forced into a dress, but he proves to be a highly uncooperative bride. Fortunately, Joy's real bride returns just in time to make everyone happy. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Somewhere in Wrong
With this two-reel comedy, Stan Laurel began taking on some of the characteristics that later became famous when he teamed up with Oliver Hardy, including the slower pacing that was quite different from the hyperkinetic action favored by comics of the day. Stan plays a tramp, who, along with another tramp (Max Asher), tries to steal food from a farmhouse. Although Stan is caught, the farmer's daughter (Julie Leonard) feels sorry for him and feeds him anyhow. When the farm's landlord threatens to evict the family, Stan proves to be helpful -- the man holding the mortgage has stolen the farmer's money, but Stan steals it right back and pays him off. This is not enough, however, to win the farmer's daughter's heart -- she already has a sweetheart (Charles King). Featured in the film is a bit-part actor who would later gain fame in the Our Gang comedies -- Pete the Pup. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Huns and Hyphens
With this wartime comedy, Larry Semon graduated from one to two-reelers. It was also the first Semon film in which Stan Laurel appeared (Laurel would make just three films with the comic, who at the time was almost as famous as Charles Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle). To impress Vera (Madge Kirby), Larry (Semon) poses as a man of great wealth. In reality, however, he is just the headwaiter at a beer garden. But nothing in this film is as it appears to be -- the beer garden is really a front for a group of German spies, and Vera is an inventor who has created a new gas mask for the U.S. government. Vera and her father come to the beer garden, where she is not thrilled to learn that Larry is just a waiter. She doesn't have much time to stew over this bit of information -- the Germans kidnap her in hopes of stealing her plans for the gas mask. Though the situation looks bleak, Larry comes to the rescue and saves both Vera and her invention. Laurel's role is a small one -- he is merely one of the gang members. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

A Man About Town
Although this Stan Laurel one-reeler is based on a very simple premise, it's quite funny. Adding to the mirth is the presence of James Finlayson, who always worked well with Laurel, and became an even greater comic antagonist when Laurel teamed up with Oliver Hardy. Laurel plays a none-too-bright young man who is riding a streetcar. When he asks the conductor how to get to his destination, the conductor suggests that he follow a young woman who is going the same way. The problem is that Stan winds up following a different woman wearing a similar dress. As a result, he winds up all over town, part of the confusion being that there are a lot of women who are wearing that very same outfit. During his travels, Stan goes into a department store and is pursued by the store's detective (Finlayson), who finds his behavior suspicious. The lady Stan is following also thinks he's a suspicious character and sets a cop on him. Stan finally gets away from both the detective and the cop and is about to leap onto a waiting streetcar -- except as his head is turned to bid adieu to his pursuers, the streetcar leaves and a paddy wagon pulls up. He leaps on the back of the wagon and the cops pull him inside. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Detained
This two-reel Stan Laurel comedy (made three years before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy) was produced by Joe Rock -- it was Laurel's first film after leaving the Hal Roach studios. Laurel plays a convict who is in love with the warden's daughter (Julie Leonard). He and another inmate try to burrow out of the prison but instead wind up in the warden's office (this gag was used twice again in the Laurel and Hardy film The Second Hundred Years and The Flying Deuces). Eventually, Stan is pardoned, but by then, the warden and his daughter have grown so fond of him that they're all saddened when he is pardoned. Stan solves their dilemma by picking the warden's pocket as he makes his exit. Some of the gags are borrowed from a previous Stan Laurel film, Picks and Shovels. Much of Detained is lost to time and disintegration; only parts of the footage remain. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Mud and Sand
This slapstick parody of Rudolph Valentino's Blood and Sand really put Stan Laurel on the map as a film comedian. While no Valentino, Stan is quite handsome as aspiring toreador Rhubarb Vaselino. When he enters a bullfight and lays three bulls to waste, his reputation is made. He weds his childhood sweetheart Caramel (Julie Leonard) and at the height of his career he is paired with the greatest bull in all Spain. But before the fight he ruins his marriage by his involvement with a wicked vamp. He goes on to defeat the bull but he is felled at the height of his victory when he's hit by one of the hats thrown into the arena -- a spurned young lovely has put a brick in it. Obviously the plot wasn't much to speak of, and the gags were the thing, along with Stan's inimitable timing. This was one of a series of comedies he made for producer Gilbert M. "Bronco Billy" Anderson -- in 1923, the comedian would move over to Hal Roach's studio where, after a few years, he would team up with another comic actor by the name of Oliver Hardy. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

White Wings
This one-reel comedy was one of Stan Laurel's early films for the Hal Roach studios (it would be nearly four years before Laurel teamed up with fellow Hal Roach actor Oliver Hardy). Laurel plays a street sweeper who finds himself in deep trouble when he neglectfully grabs a baby stroller instead of his cart. A cop (Marvin Loback) mistakes him for a kidnapper and gives chase. After running himself ragged all over town, the street sweeper finally manages to escape the cop and hides by taking the place of a traveling dentist. He performs a number of successful extractions by knocking the patients out with a hammer at the beginning of the operation (two of his victims happen to be James Finlayson and Mark Jones). But then the cop shows up with a toothache and finds him. It's the street sweeper who gets the hammer this time around, and he's carted off unconscious. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Egg
Set in California, The Egg sees wannabe crime kingpin Kuan (Marc Chen) kidnap spoiled rich girl Yumi (Kuo Tin-Tin, a Taiwanese pop singer) from Los Angeles International Airport. He forces her to eat a poisonous egg that will cause death in 48 hours, and demands cash in exchange for an antidote to the poison. Kidnapper and captive take off from L.A. to San Francisco, but their progress is hampered by Yumi's proclivity for escape and Kuan's proclivity for stupidity. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi

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