10 May 2007 | BJJManchester
Their Best Production
A variation on Shakespeare's 'COMEDY OF ERRORS' (there are occasional references to the bard through the film),OUR RELATIONS is one of Laurel and Hardy's better features.It is certainly the most stylishly-produced film they ever made,and arguably the best from a technical viewpoint.If there is a fault it is with the overly-complex and overly-plotted storyline;it does rather mitigate against truly classic and hilarious routines that were evident in SONS OF THE DESERT and WAY OUT WEST(their best feature films),because there is so much story conveyed.And it's debatable if the familiar 'double' device,which was becoming hackneyed even in 1936,can squeeze that much humour out of it's various confusions and mistaken identities.The large number of characters supporting Stan and Ollie are also something of a distraction;some are relevant to the story,others are not so and abruptly depart somewhat improbably during the narrative.
These quibbles aside,the film is consistently amusing throughout,with familiar L & H foils (Finlayson,Housman),and those not so familiar (Toler,Hale) giving fine support.The most impressive aspect of OUR RELATIONS is it's technical sheen;it is very handsomely produced;the nightclub set particularly is highly impressive,and possibly the most elaborate and polished production design ever seen in a Laurel and Hardy film.Behind the camera,aspects are pretty accomplished too.Director Harry Lachman,usually more comfortable with straight drama (DANTE'S INFERNO with Spencer Tracy was his other most notable cinematic achievement) handles the comic sequences nicely,and commendably directs with a slick,speedy pace.This quickness has a slight downside;it would have been better if Lachman had sat back on a few occasions to allow L & H to indulge in their slower,yet more nuanced and subtle routines.We do see this near the beginning when Ollie reads a letter from his mother,and Stan conspires to break Ollie's reading glasses.This familiar and intimate bit of business is possibly the funniest scene in the film;the welter of plot complication after means we see virtually none of this well-versed style of theirs from this point on.Their encounters with the various many characters are amusing alright (especially Fin,who is well and truly savaged in his battle with the boys on this occasion),but OUR RELATIONS may have been even superior if Lachman had utilised a more methodical pace and concentration on L & H.Rudolph Mate,one of Hollywood's best Black and White cinematographers of the 30's and 40's, does a very accomplished job on the visuals,with some unexpectedly dramatic lighting,especially with the latter gangster sequence.This scene itself is rather over-stretched and perhaps even a trifle intimidating,with Tiny Sandford,in his final L & H film,not entirely comfortable as a brutish thug here.After being dispatched(entirely by mistake)on the dockside,the gangsters involved unconvincingly vanish from the scene,though Stan,Ollie,Alf and Bert finally meet at the end after all these complications.
OUR RELATIONS is not quite the best Laurel and Hardy feature,but only a small handful(WAY OUT WEST,SONS OF THE DESERT,BLOCKHEADS)could probably regard themselves as superior.There are no musical numbers or romantic sub-plots,perhaps because there's so much plot and incident abound! It would have been preferable had there been more emphasis on just L & H themselves,but from a technical and production point of view,OUR RELATIONS is Laurel and Hardy's most polished film;and while not their funniest,is still very amusing.
Rating:7 and a half out of 10.