Archive for February 6, 2019

Los Chicos

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 6, 2019 by dcairns

BELOW ZERO (1930) is a strange, bleak little comedy, in which Laurel & Hardy attempt, hopelessly, to busk for change in a snowstorm, playing “In the Good Old Summertime,” and never realising that that might not be what people want to hear right now. Everyone is really mean, until they meet a friendly cop, but then that goes bad too. It’s not unusual for the boys’ films to plant them in an unsympathetic world where violence and hostility are the norm, but it IS unusual for a character to say “Two for the morgue,” and then for the lights to go out amid screams of terror…

Well, it turns out the Spanish-language version, TIEMBLA Y TITUBEA is, in a way, even darker. When Stan and Ollie, pursued by a ruffian, bump into the cop, in the US version the ruffian runs off. In the version shot for Spanish-speaking audiences, with the boys learning their lines phonetically, the cop draws his sidearm and fires of a series of shots at the departing thug. Nobody seems to think much of this — the boys watch with blank curiosity — at least until, after a brief exchange, the target, way way offscreen, fires back, blowing all three of their hats off, at which point everybody runs away.

It’s a reminder that the boys were early adopters of the use of offscreen sound — think particularly of those moments when a character, usually Ollie, slips and goes flying out of frame, followed by a deafening crash, the results of which will only be visualised, as a POV shot, moments later, when someone, usually Stan, comes to see what’s happened — but among those who used it most strikingly and persistently.

Also, maybe it points to perceived differences in the US and Mexican markets. Did somebody say, “Better get some gunplay in or they won’t go for it south of the border”?* Maybe they also got everyone to play the scenes faster, despite the language difficulty, since the Spanish short lacks some of the wonderfully protracted delivery that makes BELOW ZERO such a stark experience.

*To play the Mexican version of Russian Roulette, you simply load a pistol, cock it, and throw it at the ceiling. The gun has an equal chance of going off when it hits the ceiling and when it falls to the floor, and is just as likely to kill or wound anyone else in the room as it does you, with neighbours and passers-by standing a fair chance of injury too. 

 

 

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