LAUREL AND HARDY DOUBLE BILL -
MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS and BOGUS
Region 0 (UK, PAL) Eureka Video Edition - Review by Andrew Smith
Hal Roach, Charley Rogers, Gus Meins
Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Charlotte Henry
Laurel and Hardy Double Bill Box set has recently been released by Eureka
video. This set contains the company’s previous release of March of The
Wooden Soldiers as well as a new title Bogus Bandits They are
also available separately.
casual Laurel and Hardy fans these films hold few surprises, but the avid
Son of the Desert may notice that these films have been re-titled.
March of the Wooden Soldiers has previously been known as Babes in
Toyland. Although the original opening title has been replaced, fans
will be glad to hear that the opening song is intact, as are later shots
of the Bogey Men that had been deemed too scary for children and edited
out of some television presentations.
Bogus Bandits has previously been known as Fra Diavolo in
Europe, and as The Devil’s Brother in America. (It’s also sometimes
known as The Virtuous Tramps). The 1933 film included here is sadly
a 1954 edited and re-titled version. While I have never seen the original
version I can say that none of the edits that may be contained seem to
harm the comedy or narrative flow.
March of the Wooden Soldiers
is one of my favourite Laurel and Hardy pictures. From beginning to end it
is charming, warm and funny. In it the boys play Stannie Dum and Ollie
Dee, two toymakers who want to prevent the evil Silas Barnaby from
throwing their landlady, Widow Peep, from evicting her. Live action cameos
from Disney’s Three Little Pigs and Mickey Mouse have to be seen to be
believed, but their cheesy rubbishness only add the film.
finds Ollio and Stanlio in eighteenth-century Italy, press-ganged into
helping a group of bandits. As one of the historical Laurel and Hardy
operettas, (it’s loosely based on Daniel-François Auber's 1830 operetta
Fra Diavolo), the film seems to be weighed down by some unnecessary
singing. It is, however, still very funny in places, with Dennis King
providing great support as rogue bandit Fra Diavolo. The film also
features James Finlayson, who’s always most welcome.
a budget release, 1934's March of the Wooden Solders is in very
good condition. The film is encoded at a respectable bit-rate of 6Mb/sec.
Some minor image flicker and moderate film dirt are not too distracting.
One thing of note is that a region free colorized version of this exact
print is available from Goodtimes Home Video. While I am usually against
the colorizing of old films, Stan Laurel always regretted that this film
was made in black and white, and the colorization is of high standard. It
is also better suited for children; this is, after all, a family film.
When Bogus Bandits was released on DVD in Australia it received
some very poor reviews due to terrible image quality. This UK set is
roughly equal in quality to some of those in the recent Universal
Hardy Box Set. The picture has generally poor contrast and a
generally soft appearance, with some significant black crushing causing a
lack of shadow detail. Thankfully, dirt levels are well in check. The film
is encoded at an average 4.5Mb/sec.
Both discs are single-layered DVD-5’s. Sadly there are sadly no subtitles.
quality of the audio is not as impressive as March of the Wooden
Soldiers' picture quality. Both tracks suffer from the crackle, hiss
and poor dynamic range that you might expect from films of this vintage
and provenance. During the musical numbers it is sometimes hard to make
out lyrics. It is however quite adequate when it comes to dialogue.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
March of the Wooden
Hustling for Health
(15m) is one of Stan
Laurels earlier solo, silent films from 1915. It is interesting to see him
in what becomes a romantic lead. Image quality is surprisingly good for
its age, and it is encoded at 5.5Mb/sec.
menu for Bogus Bandits is surprisingly good for a budget title, as
the familiar Cuckoo Song
plays a window displays a montage of
scenes from the film. The scene selection is similarly presented.
only bonus features are text biographies and filmographies, and a modest
Stills Gallery, which contains interesting items such as
promotional posters and lobby cards.
Although the picture quality of Bogus
Bandits leaves a lot to be desired, and both films are presented in
edited versions, this set
is currently the best on the market, and well worth a look. Those who
crave unedited prints should lobby Warner Home Video, who currently own