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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
The Little Rascals (1927-1936)

Nice Lady: How about an artichoke...is he a vegetarian?Stymie: Uh-uh, he's just like me, he's a Methodist!
- Unknown, Matthew Beard

Review By: Robert Edwards  
Published: August 18, 2003

Stars: Jackie Cooper, Norman Chaney, Farina Hoskins, Kenneth McKenna, Sherwood Bailey, Billie Thomas, George McFarland, Carl Switzer, Eugene Lee, Wally Albright, Bobby Hutchins, Dorothy DeBorba, Marianne Edwards, Leonard Kibrick, Matthew Beard, Joe Cobb, Marianne Edwards, Jerry Tucker, Pete the Pup
Other Stars: June Marlowe
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (attempted doggie suicide)
Run Time: 03h:10:00s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 707729138471
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C B+AB+ B-

DVD Review

Between 1922 and 1944, Hal Roach Studios released 221 Our Gang (later renamed to The Little Rascals) films, and they remain among the best-loved American comedies. This DVD compiles ten of the shorts, from 1927 to 1936.

Teacher's Pet (1930)

It's the first day of school, and the kids are worried that their new teacher, Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe), is going to be as unattractive as her name. Jack (Jackie Cooper) accepts a ride to school, but he doesn't realize his driver is none other than Miss Crabtree herself, and spills the beans about the tricks he, Chubby (Norman Chaney), and Farina (Farina Hoskins) are going to play on her. The tricks backfire, and when their built-in excuse to get out of school goes awry, the kids learn that the new teacher is okay after all.

School's Out (1930)

Now it's the end of the school year, and the kids have grown to love Miss Crabtree, but are frightened that they'll lose her to marriage over the summer break (as they lost their previous teacher). When her brother comes to visit, they assume he's a suitor, and explain that she has false teeth, a wooden leg, a mean "temperature," seven husbands, and 21 kids! In the funniest part of this short, the kids buy answers to a history quiz from a fellow student, who claims they must be right—after all, they came from a book. But the book in this case is the "Minstrel and Black Free Joke Book"!

Readin' and Writin' (1931)

It's Brisbane's (Kenneth McKenna) first day of school, but since he'd rather grow up to be a streetcar conductor than president, he learns tips on how to get expelled. None of his tricks work, but once he throws a giant spitwad at Sherwood (Sherwood Bailey), his refusal to memorize and recite Sherwood's sappy poem does the trick. But be careful of what you wish for....

Spooky Hooky (1936)

This episode features several of the more popular Rascals, including Buckwheat (Billie Thomas), introduced in 1934, and Spanky (George McFarland), Alfalfa (Carl Switzer), and Porky (Eugene Lee), who were introduced in 1935. The circus is in town, and the boys need an excuse to skip school. They concoct a doctor's note explaining that they have colds—or, "new moniq"—and leave it on the teacher's desk. But when they find out that the entire class is going to the circus, and that they will have to stay home, they desperately try to retrieve the note. It's a dark and stormy night, and it's only a question of who will end up more frightened, the boys or the school's janitor, as they search the scary schoolhouse. And what will the rain and cold do to four little boys who now want to go to school?

For Pete's Sake (1934)

Wally (Wally Albright) has just fixed his sister Marianne's (Marianne Edwards) doll, but the bully Leonard (Leonard Kibrick) lassos it and it's destroyed. The boys promise they'll get her a new one, but they don't have enough money, and may have to trade Pete the Pup to Leonard's father, who owns the variety store. They try to earn some money by helping out a hen-pecked husband with his domestic chores, but of course things go awry. So it looks like trading Pete is their only choice, but it may not be Pete's choice.

The Kid from Borneo (1933)

The kids' uncle George, whom they've never seen, is the black sheep of the family, and their father won't let him come visit. George is a promoter, and the kids mistake his Wild Man of Borneo for their uncle himself and bring him home. But the Wild Man has a sweet tooth, and his near-constant chant of "yum yum, eat'em up!" is predictably mistaken by the kids. Chaos ensues.

Dogs is Dogs (1931)

Pity poor Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins)—he's staying temporarily with his mean stepmother, who makes no secret about her preference for her own little darling Sherwood. While Sherwood's aristocratic hound Nero gets ham for breakfast, Wheezer and his sister (Dorothy DeBorba) subsist on gruel. But the visiting Stymie (Matthew Beard) tries to prove to Sherwood that ham and eggs will talk when fried, and even though he's wrong, at least they get a good meal! Nero pushes Sherwood down a well, but when Sherwood blames it on Petey the Pup, the poor dog is impounded. Let's hope a rich family member shows up to set things right!

The Pooch (1932)

Stymie, Spanky and Petey the Pup are all hungry, but having no money, they resort to going door to door in search of food. Stymie also has to keep an eye out for "the gang," who are after him because he stole their pie. After he releases the dogs from the dogcatcher's truck, the gang thinks Stymie's trying to steal their own dog, and things go from bad to worse when the dogcatcher catches Petey and threatens to gas him.

Dog Heaven (1927)

The sole silent example included in this collection is in many ways the best, and is certainly the most bizarre. Pete the Pup is hanging himself, and just as he kicks out the box he's standing on, and his tongue starts to bulge, another dog saves him. In this bizarre world where animals can talk to each other, Pete begins to recount his tale of woe, and how his owner Joe (Joe Cobb) has broken his heart. Flashback to Joe's meeting with Clarabelle, a "vamp," who doesn't like Pete because he scares her cat. Joe spends all his time with Clarabelle, and even spends the money he has been saving for Pete's new collar on her instead! Heartbroken, Pete falls in with bad company, and there is some truly weird slow-motion footage of dogs drinking from bottles, staggering around, and eventually passing out. When Clarabelle is pushed in the water, she blames Pete, but in fact it was he who saved her, and now Joe must rush to Pete's rescue.

Sprucin' Up (1935)

Boys will be boys, and boys won't want to wash their ears, comb their hair, or clean their shoes, at least not until a beautiful girl, Marianne (Marianne Edwards) moves in next door. She's the daughter of the new truant officer, and Spanky and Alfalfa immediately begin to woo her. A chin-up contest goes well until Percy (Jerry Tucker) shows up to take Marianne to the circus, and replaces the chair they've climbed up on with a spiny cactus plant. The boys realize they're stuck, and to make matters worse, Marianne's father soon returns.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The source material for these shorts is variable; the older ones in particular showing almost constant blemishes such as speckles and scratches. But the newer shorts are in better condition, and all of them exhibit a surprising range of contrast from very deep blacks to bright whites. The transfers on this dual-layer disc are excellent, with no signs of compression or other digital artifacts, and no edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Just as with the image, the source materials are the limiting factor here. As is typical of films of this vintage, fidelity is limited, and there are occasional pops and crackles, but not enough to be annoying. However, the organ score for the silent Dog Heaven is plagued by a constant crackling and some dropouts. The touted "2.0 Dolby Surround" is nothing more than mono.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 60 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
0 Other Trailer(s)1 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Promos for Hallmark Home Entertainment's DVDs of Laurel and Hardy and Dinotopia, and Hallmark Entertainment's mini-series
  2. Trivia Game
  3. Fun Facts
  4. Printed insert with chapter listing
  5. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: The two Hallmark promos for their Laurel and Hardy and Dinotopia releases, as well as the fluff piece Hallmark's Best are best ignored, but the Trivia Quiz (I only got two out of ten right) and 38 Fun Facts are interesting, as are the bios of the five most famous cast members and producer Hal Roach. The Photo Gallery is mostly still-frames from the included shorts.

If you're looking for something meatier, try Hal Roach—Hollywood's King of Laughter. This 49-minute documentary from 1993 covers Hal Roach's life from his beginnings in Hollywood, all the way up to his 1984 Lifetime Achievement Oscar® and his death eight years later, and there is a wealth of material here. Long sequences are devoted to his work with (mostly) silent comic Harold Lloyd and with Laurel and Hardy, as well as Charley Chase, Snub Pollard, Harry Langdon and of course The Little Rascals. Perhaps the most interesting information is about his career after the heyday of the comedy short, when he moved into features and later television.

Narrated by Penn Jillette, the documentary also contains interesting observations and comments from Steve Allen, Dom DeLuise, John Hughes, Robert Klein, Rich Little, Gale Storm, and Mel Brooks (although Brooks' comment that the special effects in Roach's One Million B.C. are as good as the ones in Jurassic Park makes one wonder if he has seen either film).

The DVD isn't time coded, so it's difficult to tell whether the listed runtime of 190 minutes is correct. Hallmark also shows some carelessness in the packaging—in addition to the Trivia Game, something called Pop-Up Trivia Facts is listed, but it is nowhere to be found. The shorts, as presented on the disc, are in a slightly different order from what is listed on the jacket and printed insert. And finally, we are promised Hal Roach Story: Creating the Little Rascals Characters, which is named A Look Back—Moments With Hal Roach in the menus, and turns out to be Hal Roach—Hollywood's King of Laughter!

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

This is a great collection of 10 Little Rascals shorts from 1927 to 1936. Quality of the source material is mostly very good, and the well-done transfers and interesting extras add up to a highly enjoyable package.

 


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