Archive for Battle of the Century

Pie-Eyed

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on March 27, 2017 by dcairns

Biggest laugh sensation of this year’s Hippfest was THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY, because Laurel & Hardy are always the biggest laugh-getters anywhere they appear. This was on a triple-bill with PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP (a triumphal return to Bo’ness) and THE FINISH TOUCH (a debut), but was undoubtedly the crowning glory, and not just because it’s newly restored — it’s the best film of the (excellent) bunch.

The film had been missing its first reel for decades. It’s still missing a bridging scene in which Eugene Pallette (a rare L&H appearance for him) sells Ollie accident insurance on Stan. The loss of this scene is unfortunate, as it breaks the film in half, and the two halves are pretty slenderly related. To my relief, Pallette does turn up during the climactic pie fight, which is one of the biggest ever staged, and brilliantly inventive. It also features regular L&H enemy Charlie Hall, participant in their best slow-burn tit-for-tat routines, and the elegantly hilarious Anita Garvin.

But the restored bit is a prize-fight where Stan demonstrates his worthlessness (again) to Ollie, leading to the later insurance scam. This has been cleaned up like new by Lobster Films of Paris, and if it weren’t for the bridging photo-strip of the missing scene, you would think the whole film had been made yesterday, except it’s too good. Stan is failing to fight Noah Young, perhaps silent Hollywood’s pre-eminent plug (Bull Montana his main rival). Young battled Buster Keaton in ONE WEEK (I think) and Harold Lloyd in FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE (for sure), and here he’s almost as terrifying as Johnny Barnes as Sugar Ray Robinson in RAGING BULL. This amazing restoration should be good for his reputation, although unless Young, who died in 1958, enjoys another amazing restoration, he won’t know anything about it.

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