Laurel and Hardy-Music Box/Busy Bodies/Towed in a Hole (1932)

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Released 24-Jan-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Gallery-Hats Off
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 97:05
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

I have to admit up front - the only reason I am reviewing this DVD is because of a mistake my mistake. When the list of available for review DVD titles came up, my eyes came across "Music Box" and I searched IMDB and decided this must be the 1990 movie about a Hungarian immigrant accused of being a war criminal directed by Costa-Gavras. I thought it was probably worth watching. Needless to say no one was more surprised than I when I finally received the DVD.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are, of course, the famous comedy duo that made numerous films from the 1920s to the 1940s. Their film career has spanned the transition from silent films to "talkies" and this DVD presents three well-known sound shorts (produced by Hal Roach) circa 1932-33. The "official" web site for Laurel and Hardy is www.laurel-and-hardy.com.

Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on 16 June 1890 in Ulverston, England and died on 23 February 1965. Oliver Hardy was born Norvell Hardy on 18 January 1892 in Harlem, Georgia and died on 7 August 1957.

The following descriptions of the three films are taken from Laurel and Hardy Central. Note that the DVD packaging erroneously refer to Busy Bodies and Towed in a Hole as "silent shorts" but they are actually sound shorts (each around 20 minutes in length) and are presented on the DVD with dialogue.

The Music Box

Written and filmed December, 1931. Released by MGM, April, 1932. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by James Parrott. Three reels.

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert, Lilyan Irene, Sam Lufkin, Charlie Hall, William Gillespie, Gladys Gale.

Laurel and Hardy are to deliver a piano to a house which sits atop an enormous flight of stairs. Their attempts to carry the piano up the stairs results in it rolling and crashing into the street below several times, often with Ollie in tow. They finally succeed in getting the piano in the house, where they make a shambles of the living room. The owner of the house, Professor Theodore Von Schwarzenhoffen, returns and is outraged at what he finds. He attacks the piano with an axe, but regrets his actions when he discovers it was a present from his wife.

The Music Box is the only Laurel and Hardy film to be honoured with an Academy Award, for "Best Short Subject," 1931-32.

Towed in a Hole

Written and filmed October-November, 1932. Released December, 1932. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by George Marshall. Two reels.

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert.

Fish peddlers Laurel and Hardy decide to buy a boat so they can catch their own fish, eliminate the middleman, and have the profits go to the fish. They buy a rundown old boat, and have little success at repairing and painting it.

Busy Bodies

Written and filmed July, 1933. Released by MGM, October, 1933. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by Lloyd French. Two reels.

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charlie Hall, Tiny Sandford.

The Boys work at a lumber yard, which has a plentiful supply of tools, paint, nails and electric saws. You get the idea.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

The sound shorts presented on this DVD have been lovingly preserved (transferred from the decaying and flammable nitrate 35mm film onto safety film) and in some cases restored by the KirchGroup. Although these transfers are not without blemishes (there are numerous film marks throughout the transfer), they probably are the best possible transfer given the age and quality of the originals. They are presented in the original (full frame) aspect ratio.

In general, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the transfers. Shadow detail and sharpness are probably below average compared to say a 1950s black & white film, but quite good considering the film source. The transfer is reasonably detailed - for example I can read (with some difficulty) lettering on the piano crate and wagon.

The B&W version of The Music Box suffers from some telecine wobble during the opening titles, but mercifully the actual feature itself is quite stable.

The colour version of The Music Box suffers from colour smearing throughout the entire feature, and generally looks less sharp and detailed than the B&W version. The transfer also seems to have cropped the right edge of the film slightly.

I would say I greatly prefer the B&W version over the colour version, and I am by no means a purist. The difference in quality is rather like comparing a live TV broadcast against a VHS recording. The colour version suffers from what I can only describe as "colourisation artefacts", of which I can quote several glaring examples:

The quality of the transfer for the additional sound shorts (Towed in a Hole and Busy Bodies) are similar to that for the Music Box. There's a glaring film mark in 10:40 in Towed in a Hole and telecine wobble around 4:17 in Busy Bodies.

There appear to be no MPEG artefacts present in the transfer, although with the colour version it's hard to tell since the transfer is rather blurry.

All three shorts seem to be subtitled. I engaged the "English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing" track briefly and the subtitling seems to be adequate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The sound quality of the three shorts are about average considering the age of the films, ie. tinny and monophonic. Even though the DVD packaging claims that the colour version of The Music Box has a remixed stereo soundtrack, the soundstage still seemed very monophonic and centre focused to me.

There are two audio tracks, English and Spanish. Both tracks are mono, but are encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at a bitrate of 192 Kbps. I listened to only the English track.

Dialogue quality seems adequate considering the age of the films and I can detect no audio synchronization problems. However, there seems to be an "echo" in the dialogue around 23:50 in the colour version of The Music Box.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

You can either regard this DVD has a three feature DVD with minimal extras, or a single feature DVD with loads of extras. I have chosen to review this DVD as containing three features and one extra.

Menu

These are well presented and looks really sharp. They are non-animated. Curiously, the menus for the Towed in a Hole and Busy Bodies seem to default to subtitling on.

Photo Gallery - Hats Off

This contains six stills from the lost film Hats Off. Interestingly, one of the stills features the same steep staircase that we saw in The Music Box.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

As far as I can tell, this DVD is the same around the world, apart from PAL/NTSC formatting. I can't find any reference to this DVD on Amazon, but a fan site states that the DVD will be released in the UK on 2 April 2001.

Summary

Laurel and Hardy: The Music Box, is a good DVD for Laurel & Hardy fans. It is presented on a DVD with the best possible audio and video transfer that you could expect given the age of the film sources. It has a well presented set of extras, including Towed in a Hole, Busy Bodies, subtitles, and a photo gallery for Hats Off.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Sunday, February 04, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601

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