Laurel and Hardy

Sons Of The Desert/We Faw Down

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy None
Year Released 1933
Running Time 62:00 minutes
RSDL/Flipper Dual Layer
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 2 Director William A Seiter
Leo McCarey
Universal Home Video
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music -

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio No
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Arguably the greatest comedy duo of all time, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a rare duo indeed. Not only did they survive a long time in film, and to this day are still seen and laughed at by millions, but they made a most successful transition from the silent era to the talkie era - a feat many a silent screen star was unable to accomplish. They came together as a duo in 1926 and made many short and feature films, although it is generally accepted that their best work was to be found in their short films. However, of their feature films, two are considered to stand above all others - Way Out West from 1937 and Sons Of The Desert from 1933. It is therefore pleasing that both of these gems are now available on Region 4 DVD. However, even more pleasing is that not only do we get the features, but also a short film as an added bonus. In this instance it is the 1928 short We Faw Down. Whilst it may seem odd to partner a feature film with a silent short, it actually is quite an inspired choice for there are great similarities between the two works - not the least of which is a fairly similar story. But truth be told, just about every Laurel and Hardy had much the same story, and the fact that people kept on laughing anyway is perhaps the greatest testament to their comic skills.

    Sons Of The Desert sees the bumbling duo at a special meeting of their lodge, the Sons Of The Desert obviously, making a pledge to attend the annual convention in one week in Chicago. Trouble is they have to get the permission of their wives to go, and that is virtually impossible. And so Ollie pretends to have some illness, whereupon Stan hires a "doctor" to vouch that Ollie needs to take a cruise to Honolulu as the only means of recovery. Ollie's wife insists he does so, and Ollie insists that Stan accompany him - although Stan already has permission to go to the convention. And so they head off to Chicago, whilst their wives think they are heading to Honolulu. Naturally they get up to all sorts of shenanigans in Chicago, which includes being filmed in a parade. They meet up with a comical character at the convention, which almost results in the beans being spilt. However, that minor hiccup is overcome and they return to home in Los Angeles, only to find out that the ship upon which they are supposedly returning to Los Angeles has foundered and the passengers have been rescued by another ship. The duo have thus returned home a day early. The whole ruse is collapsed by the girls going to the cinema to console themselves only to be confronted by newsreel footage of a certain parade in Chicago, with the antics of their husbands well and truly on display.

    We Faw Down sees our heroes trying to get off to a poker game, but being hampered by their watchful wives. So they pretend an incoming telephone call is from their boss, requesting their presence for a show at a local theatre. So they sneak off, but on the way they assist a lady in rescuing her hat, unfortunately to their own detriment. Whilst enjoying the company of the ladies at their apartment whilst their clothes are drying, the boyfriend turns up. Beating a hasty retreat through the window, their wives see them, whilst searching for news of them after a fire at the said local theatre, and return home to await their explanation.

    As I said, amazing similarities between the stories, but who cares. Over the years I have seen these films many, many times and whilst the overt comedy has long lost its outright mirth, there remains plenty to enjoy here in the subtlety of the work of the duo. Perhaps not in the truly classic mold of say Buster Keaton in The General, this nonetheless remains some classic comedy from an era of great comedy. This is a style of comedy that we are unlikely to see ever again and in some respects that is to be regretted.

    Whilst I doubt that anyone approaching this DVD would be unaware of the contents therein, this remains an essential purchase for lovers of classic comedy from the classic comedy duo team of all time. It may be old, it may have been seen many, many times before but it will still bear many more repeated viewings. It is to be noted that in addition to the two original black and white films, the DVD also contains a bastardized, colorized version of the main feature. Most of what I have to say about colorized versions of classic films would definitely result in a XXX rating for this review, so perhaps I shall just confine myself to saying that these bastardizations should not be inflicted upon DVD in any way, shape or form. Still, I presume some might want to enjoy the film in a wishy washy colour version that destroys most of the original detail of the film.

Transfer Quality


    Sixty eight years old and still going strong - you sure would not be expecting a pristine effort in the transfer department. And we certainly do not get one, but it has to be said that after the first few minutes of the film this is not too shabby at all. Whilst not exactly pristine, the restoration work has resulted in a cleaner image than would perhaps otherwise be the case.

    Obviously for a film of this age, the transfer is presented in a Full Frame format which is equally obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

    Allowing for the age of the transfer, this ends up being quite a decently sharp effort with a fair amount of detail on offer - at least in the "proper" version of the film. The colorized version of the main feature loses a lot of the sharpness and detail in its quest for computer-coloured glory, whilst the short is just a little more blessed with a softer focus in general. Naturally the shadow detail is not the best, but thankfully this was a known inherent problem with film making of the era and so it was partly compensated for by the generally restricted use of darker tones in the picture. You would hardly classify these as clear transfers, most especially not the colorized version, and at times grain does become an issue - especially in the short. But this at no time resulted in an unwatchable image at all. There did not seem to be too much of a problem with noise in the transfer.

    The two black and white transfers demonstrate a nice style of black and white tones - whilst lacking the ultimate depth of tone, the grey scales are not too bad and convey a quite decent amount of information. The colorized version of the feature on the other hand demonstrates in abundance exactly why I cannot see the point to the process. The colours, apart from the very black blacks and very white whites, are quite wishy washy and lack definition. They introduce into the image a degree of blur that I find difficult to watch, as the transition from one colour to another is generally done far too subtly. The colours have an unnatural appearance to them and skin tones are especially unnaturally handled. A direct comparison between the original black and white and the colorized version is decidedly not in favour of the colorized version. It simply loses the definition in the image. There is also the inherent problem of perceived colour bleed in the colorized version that I find distracting: I am not sure that it is actually there but I certainly perceive it to be and cannot abide it. Perhaps the most telling problem with the colorized version is the lack of saturation in the colours, enhancing the wishy washy look of the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, and film-to-video artefacts comprise some mild aliasing in the main feature. Naturally the transfers are fairly riddled with film artefacts, but probably less than expected overall. The most intrusive would be the reel change markings, but short of finding the original print I doubt that this problem could be eliminated. Funnily enough, the colorized version is far less prone to film artefacts (presumably coloured out by the computer colourization process), and that is about the only plus I can find about that version.

    In the absence of noting any layer change, it is presumed that this is a Dual Layer formatted DVD with one of the main features on the second layer of the DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
  Original Version Colorized Version
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Note that whilst they are 2.0 soundtracks, the actual format is mono with the signal being split between the left and right channels, then flagged to the centre channel. The result is something that sounds a lot fuller than straight mono, but nonetheless remains essentially mono. I stuck to the English soundtrack only in this instance.

    The dialogue is reasonably clear and easy to understand in the soundtrack. There did not seem to be any real problems with audio sync in the transfer, although bear in mind that this was reviewed right after watching the soccer on SBS, which was so far out of sync it was not funny - accordingly, I might have been less attuned to any such problems on the DVD.

    The musical score is, as far as I can ascertain from the DVD, uncredited.

    Not much to worry about here - aside from a few glitches that are to be expected in a soundtrack of this age, there is not a fat lot wrong with what we have got. Basically you don't need much in the way of speakers to indulge in this DVD.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use  


    Nothing at all - although perhaps the additional short and the colorized version of the feature could be considered extras.


    Quite presentable in themselves and a little bit more than adequate.

R4 vs R1

    As far as I can determine, our brethren in Region 1 have thus far been denied the joys of this classic from Laurel and Hardy.


    Sons Of The Desert is classic comedy from the greatest comedy duo of all time. Fans will have no need to hold back on indulging in this effort at all, as I doubt that anything better in transfer terms is going to come along anytime soon. It is a pity that a bit more effort could not have been made with the extras department. A commentary from a suitably qualified person perhaps, some detailed biographical notes too? Maybe even another short or two? A pity really, as Laurel and Hardy sure do deserve it. At least the liner notes were reasonable I suppose, if rather brief.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
3rd February 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL