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Kino on Video presents
The Flying Deuces (1939)

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into."
- Oliver Hardy (as if there could be any doubt)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: January 05, 2005

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy
Director: A. Edward Sutherland

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:06m:01s
Release Date: August 03, 2004
UPC: 738329036621
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BD+C+ B-

DVD Review

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have got to be, far and away, the most recognizable comic duo in movie history, and it's hard to come up with another that even comes close. By the time of The Flying Deuces, they were already a well-known pair; caricatures of the screen personae of the two appear over the opening credits, so the 1939 audience knew exactly what they were in for. And the movie delivers the goods—you're in for an hour of silliness and merriment with two of the great screen clowns, one of those pairings that is more than merely the sum of its parts.

Their onscreen characters were finely honed by this point: Hardy the roly-poly headstrong one, Laurel the gaunt, apologetic one. Here poor Ollie has fallen head over heels for Georgette, the innkeeper's daughter; not only is she married, but she's joined by her colleagues in making Oliver the butt of their jokes. Alas, Ollie learns the truth, and knows not how to mend his broken heart until a Parisian flic offers a tried and true method: join the French Foreign Legion. Which is exactly what the boys do, to their misery and our delight.

As with the other great screen comedians of their time, Laurel and Hardy are nearly always on the precipice of calamity: here we see them not just broken hearted, but contemplating suicide, sentenced to the firing squad, on the verge of crashing a plane. But since it's their pain and not ours, we can laugh at it; and there's a lot here to laugh at. The classically constructed gags pile jokes on top of jokes—it's clear that Stan and Ollie learned their craft in silent pictures and on the vaudeville stage. There's not much verbal repartee to their comedy, and much of it is genuinely mean; they've frequently got more of an affinity with the violence of the Three Stooges than with the deadpan of Keaton or Chaplin, or the entropy of the Marx Brothers. And despite the movie's title, the aviation stuff isn't the strongest comedic material here, perhaps because their Foreign Legion outpost looks mightily like a San Fernando Valley backlot.

But this is certainly a brisk and funny hour, and offers a musical highlight, too: the duo performs a cute little soft shoe and Stan croons Shine On Harvest Moon. This isn't the most hilarious movie you'll ever see, but it's funnier than most, and of course Laurel and Hardy together can be enchanting.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: There's very, very little to recommend about this transfer, unfortunately—there are frequent awful discolorations at the edges of the frame, many instances of scratching and acid burn, even a few missing frames, causing the image to jump around. This may have as much to do with decades of neglect as with the quality of the transfer, but even though what's in the picture can be very funny, looking at it may make you wince.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: A good amount of hiss and pop on the mono track, but the dialogue can always be readily made out, which is a blessing.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. 1931 short, The Stolen Jewels (see below)
  2. Laurel and Hardy on This Is Your Life
  3. two galleries of images
Extras Review: French film collector Serge Bromberg provides an introduction (02m:49s), situating this film in the context of the careers of Laurel and Hardy; this was their first effort without Hal Roach. The duo are dubbed in an original French trailer (01m:26s); a poster gallery gives the names by which the duo were known throughout the world. (The best, surely, is Germany, where Laurel and Hardy were known as Dick und Doof.) Another gallery features 19 images of still photographs and promotional material.

The juicier stuff here are the accompanying featurettes. Laurel and Hardy in Tynemouth (07m:53s) is a silent newsreel from 1932, featuring teeming crowds out to see the adored movie stars, who perform some of their signature comic bits and pass out toys to the local children. From the same year, Laurel and Hardy in Edinburgh (06m:21s), also silent, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the local movie theater screening the duo's latest picture. Perhaps the best thing on this disc other than the feature is The Stolen Jools (18m:45s), a star-studded short from 1931, with many of the biggest stars of the day appearing as themselves in a story that has some fun with Hollywood. Somebody has stolen Norma Shearer's jewels, and everyone is under suspicion, including Laurel and Hardy. Some of the cameos are by actors whose reputations remain prominent—Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Edward G. Robinson; others have been largely forgotten with the years (Richard Dix or Eddie Kane, anyone?).

Hardy and Laurel appear in a 1943 short produced for the Forest Service; it's called The Tree in a Test Tube (05m:23s), in which "Laurel and Hardy little realize the importance of wood in their everyday lives." It's not so terrific, but it is in color, and it's odd to see them that way. Finally, Ralph Edwards hosts a 1955 episode of This Is Your Life (28m:14s), in which Laurel and Hardy are the featured guests; they don't look to happy about it, and while it provides some useful biographical information for us, it may get you thinking less about the comic duo, and more about the hostility inherent in these sorts of "surprises."

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A solid and very funny effort from two screen legends close to the peak of their popularity. The technical values are wanting, but that's cushioned to some extent by the extras package. 


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