Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jason goes to Niles for a Laurel and Hardy Talkie...ish Matinee

So normally the second Sunday of every month is a Laurel and Hardy Talkie Matinee at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. But last Sunday was a special event--Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang shorts that bridged the end of the silent era and the beginning of talkies. So these films were made as silents, then had a soundtrack of music and sound effects added later.

THE SPANKING AGE (1928): Our Gang's Mary Ann and Wheezer get in trouble for stealing (and wrecking) a cake. Then they decide to have a secret party with the whole gang while their stepmother is out. But...they screw up the recipe of the cake and put alum in it instead of flour, leading to a lot of sour faces.

HABEAS CORPUS (1928): As I said when I saw the silent version back in October:
The Boys, Laurel and Hardy are hired by a scientist to help with his experiments. Problem number one--the scientist is completely loony-tunes crazy. Problem number 2--he hired Laurel and Hardy to go dig up a corpse from the local cemetery. Maybe times were just different then, or maybe L&H are geniuses who can wring a heck of a lot of humor from such a macabre setup. In any case, it was hilarious.
Then a short intermission, and the final two shorts.

SATURDAY'S LESSON (1929): As I said when I saw the silent version back in...2008 (wow, and it still seemed familiar):
(One of?) the last "Our Gang" silents, before they went all talkie. The gang doesn't want to do chores on Saturday morning. But a guy in a devil costume teaches them a lesson. Maybe a little too well, in fact.
WRONG AGAIN (1929): As I said when I saw the silent version back in 2010:
And we end with the boys, Laurel and Hardy. They work in the stables, and hear news that The Blue Boy has been stolen. There's a $5,000 reward for its return. Which is good news, because they know exactly where Blue Boy is. Too bad they don't know that the reward is for the famous painting, not a race horse named Blue Boy. Particularly funny when the owner (who's in the bath) tells them to just put it on the piano.
So three of the 4 films I had previously seen as silent films with live piano music. And they're all very funny. But it's interesting how the soundtrack changes things. It's actually kind of jarring to hear the music and sound effects (e.g., lots of knocking, or the horse neighing, etc.) Especially hearing the sound effects but not the dialogue...I don't think it works that well. I'd rather see the silent version with live music.

Total Running Time: 80 minutes
My Total Minutes: 347,134

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