Thanks to the Blu-ray release of Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations, summer 2020 is getting a much-needed injection of comedy.
Though the duo’s oeuvre is almost 100 years old, their comedic timing will never go out of style. And thanks to MVDvisual, it’s never looked better. The Blu-ray box set—which will be released on June 30, and reviewed in Boulder Weekly on July 2—is loaded with eight hours of interviews and special features, two feature films (Sons of the Desert and Way Out West), and 17 shorts: Berth Marks, Brats, Busy Bodies, The Chimp, Come Clean, County Hospital, Helpmates, Hog Wild, Me and My Pal, Midnight Patrol, The Music Box, One Good Turn, Scram!, Their First Mistake, Towed in a Hole, Twice Two, and what many considered to be the holy grail of lost silent films, The Battle of the Century. That one features the greatest pie fight in the history of cinema and was thought lost save for a three-minute segment used in 1957’s The Golden Age of Comedy—a compilation clip show of silent comedians.
But not all of The Battle of the Century was lost. The first two-thirds of reel one was intact on 35mm, but it didn’t contain the epic pie fight. It turns out that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City had it, on 16mm, buried and overlooked in their archives. The segment bridging the two reels—containing Eugene Pallett selling the duo accident insurance policy—is still missing, and only a few still frames remain, but Laurel’s boxing match and the pie fight to end all pie fights (roughly 3,000 pies were used in the filming) are perfectly intact and sparkle like never before.
The Battle of the Century is reason enough to pick up a copy of Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations—especially since most of the shorts are difficult to find on streaming. There’s a few out there, but quality and availability are spotty. Currently, Amazon Prime offers 1929’s Big Business, and it’s a hoot. From Boulder Weekly:
Duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were among the few who successfully navigated the transition from silent to sound comedy, but their silent shorts remain their high-water mark. One of their best, Big Business, from 1929, finds the duo as door-to-door Christmas tree salesmen who call on a chap who really doesn’t want a Christmas tree. Things escalate slowly, and then very quickly, until Laurel and Hardy’s patented mayhem draws the attention of the neighborhood and a police officer. The two specialized in a brand of anarchy only The Muppets could mimic four decades later.