30 August 2008 | MartinHafer
Two shorts for the price of one!
In the early era of the Talkies, Hollywood still didn't know how to properly dub a film into various languages. Considering that Laurel and Hardy were adored worldwide in the silent era, it's no wonder Hal Roach Studios decided to make many of its early Laurel and Hardy shorts in multiple versions for viewing in French, Spanish, Italian and German markets. This meant that the team made the various versions simultaneously and spoke their lines phonetically. This wasn't as difficult as it sounds, as the Laurel and Hardy films they made this way were big on action and had minimal dialog.
This film is quite different from most of the other foreign language films they made because instead of remaking one short, this one is actually two Laurel and Hardy films (LAUGHING GRAVY and BE BIG!) made in French and stretched to full-length. Also, if you'd like, there is a Spanish language version, LOS CALAVERAS, available. Combining the films was actually a good idea, as the films were well-paced and didn't seem heavily padded like the shorts. Overall, the film is as good as the English shorts but it's pretty obvious that the boys are NOT especially great at speaking in French. To native French men and women, it must be pretty appalling to hear them butcher the language!! Like BE BIG!, the plot initially consists of the boys trying to sneak out with their lodge-mates by pretending to be sick and Ollie getting his foot stuck in Stan's boot. Certainly NOT a great plot point, as it's way too simple, though the scene with the wives catching them was priceless. It was redone much better in the terrific feature-length film SONS OF THE DESERT--with the plot and dialog being much more polished. After this great confrontation scene, the film switches to LAUGHING GRAVY--and the boys are worried about being thrown out because they sneaked a dog into their room on a cold winter's night.
The film earns a 7 and is very good, though I must admit that the shorts they remade were not among the team's best--hence the relatively mediocre score compared to other Laurel and Hardy films.
By the way, the only way I know you can see this film is to see the UK version of the 21 DVD set of all the existing Laurel and Hardy films. Sadly, this will make it practically impossible for many to ever have a chance to see this curio.