28 October 2018 | TheLittleSongbird
A matter of life and death
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were comedic geniuses, individually and together, and their partnership was deservedly iconic and one of the best there was. They left behind a large body of work, a vast majority of it being entertaining to classic comedy, at their best they were hilarious and their best efforts were great examples of how to do comedy without being juvenile or distasteful.
Although a vast majority of Laurel and Hardy's previous efforts ranged from above average to very good ('45 Minutes from Hollywood' being the only misfire and mainly worth seeing as a curiosity piece and for historical interest, and even that wasn't a complete mess), 'Oliver the Eighth' is nearly one of the best and funniest Laurel and Hardy efforts and very nearly one of my personal favourites of theirs. Their filmography had bumps along the way, but kept getting better and better from around 1929 onwards and 'Oliver the Eighth' exemplifies this.
Very little wrong with 'Oliver the Eighth' but did wish that the ending was more rounded off and was less resolved too easily.
'Oliver the Eighth' is non-stop funniness all the way, with one of the better first halves for any Laurel and Hardy effort at this point of their output. There is insane craziness that doesn't get too silly, a wackiness that rarely loses its energy and the sly wit is here, some of the material may not be massively innovative but how it's executed actually feels fresh, it is hilarious and it doesn't get repetitive. On top of the comic touches, there is genuine creepiness, tension and suspense as well as a great Gothic atmosphere. There is a surprising moody unpredictability unusual in Laurel and Hardy but works really well here.
Laurel and Hardy are on top form here, both are well used, both have material worthy of them and they're equal rather than one being funnier than the other (before Laurel tended to be funnier and more interesting than Hardy, who tended to be underused). Their chemistry feels like a partnership here too, before 'Two Tars' you were yearning for more scenes with them together but from that point and in 'Oliver the Eighth' we are far from robbed of that.
'Oliver the Eighth' looks good visually with some nice Gothic touches, has energy and the direction gets the best out of the stars, is at ease with the material and doesn't let it get too busy or static. The supporting players are solid, with a fantastically nutty Jack Barty and Mae Busch at her scariest.
Concluding, great. 9/10 Bethany Cox