Archive for Oliver Hardy

Dirty States

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2020 by dcairns

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In ALTERED STATES, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Ken Russell, Dr. Edward Jessup (a name suggesting both Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde) enters a tank of water, doped up on weird Peruvian broth, and emerges as an ape.

In DIRTY WORK, directed by lemme see Lloyd French whoever he might be, Professor Noodle (a name suggesting that which he he is off) fills a tank with weird broth,  possibly Peruvian for all I know, and tries to entice his butler to bathe in them. But before this can happen, Oliver Hardy (for this is a Laurel & Hardy short) falls in and emerges as an ape.

The name of Professor Noodle’s butler is… JESSUP.

The Jessup connection strikes me as significant, given the fact that ALTERED STATES in so many respects is a remake of DIRTY WORK, only with less chimney sweep slapstick. Chayefsky undoubtedly would have seen the L&H film, so he had that in his brain and the whole premise of his script is that nothing is ever lost, all that information is still inside us.

Jessup is frequently pictured STANDING ON THE THRESHOLD.

I’m not aware that Ken Russell was a particular fan of the boys but that’s OK because what’s exciting about the film is what was so displeasing to Chayefsky — Russell’s audio-visual attack comes from a very different direction from Chayefsky’s philosophical science fiction story. Russell’s influences are, in the main, Fritz Lang silents, Busby Berkeley musicals, and bits of Welles and Fellini.

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Here, he’s also merrily sourcing stock footage from Oxford Scientific Films and Fox’s DANTE’S INFERNO and I’m not sure what-all else. Anyone know what the massed ranks of crucifixions are from? I checked SPARTACUS but nope. A shot of twin chargers at a gallop suggested the hallucination from the ’40s JEKYLL where the horses turn into Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner, but it’s not from there — but maybe the shot was SUGGESTED by that sequence, whose surrealism and sonic assault do suggest Russell’s visions and John Corrigliano’s brilliant, bruising score.

Intelligent design by Richard MacDonald: the squawk box Jessup communicates through when he’s in the tank is shaped sorta like the tank. And has a funny face!

Fiona: “I would KILL to see this on the big screen!”

Me: “It’s one of the tragedies of this life that if you kill someone, you are in fact LESS likely to get to see ALTERED STATES on the big screen.”

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“I have nothing to say!”

The Sunday Intertitle: Raw

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 14, 2019 by dcairns

Seeing WITH LOVE AND HISSES at Hippfest with an audience and live accompaniment by Jane Gardner was great — it’s nobody’s idea of prime Stan and Ollie, but it’s a perfectly successful laugh-generator on the big screen. The boys are practically a trio in this, with James Finlayson granted a lot of screen time.

Fiona was convinced that Ollie is swearing in the above scene — “You bastard!” she read his lips. The DVD is definitely not sufficiently hi-res to allow me to confirm this.

But I felt sure Ollie mouths the words “Oh shit!” here, when he and his troop, having lost their clothes in a freak bathing and lit match accident, encounter a couple of dames out horse riding. H.M. Walker’s intertitle supplies more palatable dialogue —

(Lots of discretely framed nudity in this one, allowing us to observe how surprisingly buff Stan is in the buff. Ollie plays his sergeant character as very ruddy-faced, but it may just be his natural golfer’s tan, suggests Stephen C. Horne.)

None of which is as striking as the moment in PERFECT DAY, an early L&H talkie, when Edgar Kennedy actually says “Oh shit!” live, on camera, in the miracle of synchronized sound, and apparently nobody noticed in the general hubbub and chaos that is a Hal Roach production.

 

Get Packing

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2019 by dcairns

PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES seems to confirm George Marshall’s suitability as a Laurel & Hardy director: good shots right from the start. Not artsy, but striking, and putting into imagery some of what we feel about the characters.

He also makes a damn good sneering villain. I was grateful Stan didn’t follow his usual practice of SHOWING the horrible fate the boys are threatened with… (cut throats, in this case: well, there’s no obvious slapstick iteration of THAT calamity).

In fact, the film is co-credited to Leo McCarey’s tragic brother Ray, who nobody at Roach rated very highly, and the IMDb proposes Harry Black and Lloyd French as unindicted co-conspirators. But I think there’s enough evidence of Marshall’s style to attribute the visual grace notes to his influence.

The plot requires Stan & Ollie to have a couple of friends from the “straight world.” Little Jackie Lyn Dufton works well as an addition to the team: although looking after a kid kind of limits the mayhem the buys can get up to, what’s good about her is she’s NO HELP. A bit like Laughing Gravy, she stands almost as an embodiment of their bond: she is both inconvenient and adorable. Her father has to be gotten rid of for plot reasons early on, and a good thing too: he violates a cardinal rule of their comic universe, by being a regular joe who isn’t annoyed by their ineptitude. This is fantasy is only sustainable by giving him as little real interaction with the boys as possible.

(As an example of the correct use of an unsympathetic world, in this movie the army offers no supportive camaraderie, and an officer deliberately tries to get the boys killed by the enemy because they irritate him.)

The rest of the time the support is provided by growling heavies like Marshall, and a nice range of stooges and apoplectic minor clowns, and though it’s nowhere near as good as their top ten shorts, it feels enough like them (complete with non-stop Marvin Hatley music) and has just enough narrative cohesion and funny sequences to sustain a warm glow for 68 minutes.

Our Laurel & Hardy podcast is here.

PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES stars Rhubarb Vaselino; J. Piedmont Mumblethunder; Mickey Finn; Mrs. Wiggs; Ming the Merciless; Professor Gordon; Tootsie Malone; Og Oggilby; Joe Pettibone; Mrs. Hudson; and Mr. Hall.