Thursday, June 25, 2020


Fans of slapstick comedies need no introduction to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Prior to emerging as a team, both actors had well-established film careers. Laurel had appeared in over 50 films as an actor (while also working as a writer and director), while Hardy had been in more than 250 productions. The two comedians had previously worked together as cast members on the film "The Lucky Dog" in 1921. However, they were not a comedy team at that time and it was not until 1926 that they appeared in a short movie together, when both separately signed contracts with the Hal Roach film studio. From that day forward, the two comedians performed magic on the silver screen.

Over the years they worked as a team in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films. They also made 12 guest or cameo appearances, including the "Galaxy of Stars" promotional film of 1936, promotional film shorts and a number of radio and television appearances. It seems over the past decade there has been no shortage of archival discoveries regarding their career and Randy Skretvedt wrote what has become the Bible for all things Laurel and Hardy. (Click here for a review of his book.) Their films have been released (and re-released) under many labels on VHS and DVD, and on many occasions repetition was justified with improved print transfers. As a result, any die-hard of the comedians can easily spend hundreds of dollars and own at least one copy of every existing film short and motion-picture they boys appeared in. But now we have something awesome to look forward to.

Earlier this month the LAUREL & HARDY: THE DEFINITIVE RESTORATIONS was released on DVD and Bluray, with full restorations in 2K and 4K of two feature films and 17 film shorts. Stan and Ollie never looked or sounded better. Restoration projects from UCLA and the Library of Congress are included, from 35mm archival prints.

Among the highlights are more than 2,500 rare photographs, posters and scans of archival studio files. Commentaries from Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bannister's are included. Over eight hours of bonus extras, film and archival audio interviews with those who worked with Laurel and Hardy, isolated music tracks, alternate soundtracks, movie trailers and -- get this -- for the first time ever the video debut of the nearly complete "Battle of the Century," which was available on home video only as a three-minute excerpt. It is this film short that highlights this DVD/Bluray set and after watching the film it became apparent that the legendary pie-fight sequence was not three minutes in length, but five. I knew that pie fight sequence by heart and discovered that Robert Youngson trimmed a few seconds here and there to speed up the action of that pie fight. 

This review will not go into detail regarding comparison of the picture and sound quality to prior DVD releases. (There is no point.) The picture and sound in this set is far superior to prior releases and the term "definitive restorations" is understated. "Hog Wild," for example, was taken from a full-aperture source and provides less cropping and more screen image area than any prior release. "The Music Box," that classic film short with Laurel and Hardy attempting to deliver a piano up a lengthy flight of steps, was taken from first-generation "pre-mix" elements and the detail level is amazing.  "The Chimp" was almost in disrepair and for a while it appeared we would all have to live with an inferior print transfer from prior releases but a surprise discovery of a fine-grain master positive now provides a superior rendition.

"Sons of the Desert" was released at least a half dozen times but each release contained a slightly inferior rendition from severely cropped to added music and fade-ins/fade-outs for commercial breaks for a TV print. This new release is far superior. Not only is the classic full frame but there are extended scenes never seen since 1933. 

As with the best of DVD releases, there will always be critics. Some nit-pickers might even count the grains from the film reels and question whether this new release is worth the price.  With a film short not available anywhere else, superior quality not available in other DVD/Bluray releases and tons of extras, take my word for it. Buy this set. Your support will also cast a vote and send a message: we need a volume two. While fans might debate over the top ten Laurel and Hardy film shorts and movies, I would like to state that the best of their films are contained and they never looked better. If you do not have any Laurel and Hardy DVDs in your collection, this is the one you want to start with. 

You can purchased your copy direct here: