Laurel and Hardy

Way Out West/Big Business

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy None
Year Released 1937
Running Time 62:27 minutes
RSDL/Flipper Dual Layer
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 2,4 Director James W Horne
Universal Home Video
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music Marvin Hatley

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
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

    And we finish our little run through the recent four releases from Universal Home Video featuring the greatest comedy duo of all time, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. I suppose it is fitting that the last of the four DVDs to be reviewed should contain two of their very best performances on film - the 1937 feature Way Out West and the 1929 short Big Business. Interestingly, both are under the direction of James W Horne, credited as such on Way Out West but credited as J Wesley Horne on Big Business. Despite much of the obviousness of the comedy here, it is still very hard not to chuckle. My father reminisced about the time he went to see Way Out West at the local cinema with a friend, way back when. They apparently were laughing before the punch lines came, too, so it is not just a recent thing!

    Way Out West sees our likeable but generally brainless duo heading to Brushwood Gulch in search of a young lady by the name of Mary Roberts (Rosina Lawrence). They have been entrusted with the task of delivering to her the deed to a very rich gold mine left to her by her recently deceased father. Naturally, even this simple task is too much for our intellectually challenged duo and they spill the beans to local hotelier, and sometime profiteer, Mickey Finn (James Finlayson), who has his wife Lola (Sharon Lynne) pretend to be the said Mary Roberts in order to get the deed. After the boys find the real Mary Roberts and realize they have been duped, they attempt to recover the deed but are eventually run out of town by the local sheriff (Stanley Fields). They return at night with the intention of stealing the deed from Mickey Finn's safe and the real hilarity begins.

    Big Business sees our heroes trying to make a dollar by selling Christmas trees to the local populace, without much success. After another knock back, they attempt to leave the property of James Finlayson but the tree is stuck in the door. Minor misunderstandings then begin to escalate as the intrepid duo find things getting slightly out of hand - to the extent that their car is destroyed by Finlayson whilst they destroy his house. All this is done under the incredulous eye of a local law enforcement officer.

    Whilst the earlier reviewed Sons Of The Desert would not rank in my eyes as a true comedy classic, there is no doubt that these two films would. I would not like to guess how many times I have seen both, and despite the rather predictable comedy, they still manage to put a smile on the face. These are two genuinely well-crafted pieces of the comedy art of Laurel and Hardy and in that respect are gems that should be included in any representative comedy DVD collection.

    It should 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. By all accounts this was the first of the Laurel and Hardy features to undergo the treatment and it has to be said that this is a better effort than the previously reviewed film. However, it by no means changes my view about colorized films.

Transfer Quality


    Coming up on sixty-four years from its premiere, this particular feature has been through an obviously substantial restoration and this looks as good as any film of its age has any right to look. It is by no means pristine but this is certainly a very decent looking transfer indeed. The film is of course presented in a Full Frame format which is naturally enough not 16x9 enhanced.

    Allowing for the age of the transfer, this ends up being a very sharp effort with plenty of detail on offer. Indeed, amongst the recent older vintage DVDs through my player, this looks much better than the norm. Well, at least until we consider the colorized version of the film. In common with the norm for such abominations, what you gain (marginally) from the colour, you more than lose in the detail department. Whilst the colorized version is certainly better than that afforded Sons Of The Desert, it is still a considerable degradation from the standards of the "proper" version of the film. The colorized version of the main feature loses a lot of the sharpness and detail in the colorization process. The short on the other hand is pretty much on a par with the quality of the main feature. The shadow detail on offer is generally pretty decent for a film of this vintage and would certainly rival some films of a more recent vintage. Naturally they are not the absolute best in the clarity stakes, but that is to be expected and the grain that is present is hardly a serious distraction to the overall transfer.. There did not seem to be any problem with low level noise in the transfer.

    The black and white transfers demonstrate a nice style of black and white tones, although the main feature is just a little on the bright side at times, which slightly overpowers the depth of the black and white tones. The overall grey scales are quite decent in their definition and do not really hide any detail at all. The colorized version of the feature once again demonstrates what is inherently wrong with the process, even though this is a somewhat better effort overall. Once again the skin tones demonstrate the unnatural feel of the colorization process to the extreme. Whilst it might start sounding like a broken record, direct comparison between the original black and white and the colorized version is decidedly not in favour of the colorized version at all. There is also the inherent problem of perceived colour bleed in the colorized version, as well as the general tendency towards a lack of natural saturation in the colours. The black and white transfers are well worth indulging though.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although there seemed to be a brief period of blockiness in the background at around the 12:15 mark. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. The big benefit in the restoration process has been the general cleaning up of the film and this is quite a clean transfer for a film of the vintage. That is not to say that there are no problems - a a few brief sections are still very badly afflicted with dirt marks in particular, and the obligatory reel change markings certainly cannot be missed. However, since some sections are actually quite free of affliction, I willingly accept those odd sections as something that can be lived with in the overall scheme of things. Once again, the colorized version is far less prone to the film artefacts.

    In the absence of noting any layer change, it is presumed that this is a Dual Layered 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. The result is something that sounds a lot fuller than straight mono, but that remains essentially mono. Whilst I predominantly stuck to the English soundtrack, due to the inherent problem with the soundtrack (of which more anon), I also checked out the other two soundtracks a little more.

    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 be aware that there is one sequence in the film where Stan and Ollie are singing and other peoples voices are overdubbed. This sequence is naturally out of sync, but this is a reflection of the rather primitive techniques of the era, and not a transfer issue.

    The musical score for the main feature is from Marvin Hatley and, on the presumption that it is the original soundtrack score, is a fairly typical, slightly slapstick style effort. Apparently the score copped an Oscar nomination in 1937, so it must have been pretty good for its day.

    The main problem confronting the viewer here is the inherent background hiss in the soundtrack. People who are used to restored CD recordings of the 1930s and 1940s will probably have less of a problem here than most, but if you are used to modern, open, clean soundtracks then this is going to disappoint. I would classify the hiss as being in the marginally annoying category, as once it kicks in around the 14:00 mark, it is difficult to ignore. This was the reason why I resorted to checking out the other two soundtracks, which did not appear to suffer anywhere near the same level of hiss.

    Apart from that moderate problem, there is not much else to worry about with the soundtracks.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use  


    Once again, nothing at all other than considering the additional short and the colorized version of the feature as extras.


    Again quite presentable in themselves and decently adequate.

R4 vs R1

    Once again it would appear that Region 1 has not yet been blessed with a release of the feature film, however the short is available as part of the The Lost Films Of Laurel and Hardy - The Complete Collection.


    Way Out West is arguably Laurel and Hardy at their feature film best and this is truly classic comedy. Once again fans will have no need to hold back on grabbing this effort, and even the most marginal fan of film comedy should be adding this effort to their collection. Apart from the hiss problem in the soundtrack - they should have gotten Mike Dutton to do the remastering - this is a very decent quality DVD, even though the extras department is rather sadly devoid of any inclusions. Once again some decent liner notes, albeit quite brief.

    Mike Dutton, for those who are not aware, runs a record company called Dutton Laboratories, and is acknowledged as producing some of the very best remastered CDs from 1930s and 1940s recordings. In his field, the man is pretty much a genius - some of the things I have heard on his CDs almost defy listening belief.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
6th 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