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Flying Deuces (Restored Edition), The
Just about all comic duos have a smart straight man and a dim-witted funny guy. It is a tried and true formula made famous by such acts as Burns and Allen and Abbot and Costello. Laurel and Hardy used the same formula, but with a twist: they have a stupid guy, and an even more idiotic guy. Ollie is the dumb half, but Stan is even more intellectually challenged half, and these two made a number of outrageously funny movies in the silent and early sound days. The movie that many people consider the duos last good movie is 1939's Flying Deuces, which has recently been restored from a newly discovered print of the film found in France and released here in the States by Kino.
Stan and Ollie are vacationing in Paris, and it's about time to return to their job in the fish cannery in Des Moines. But Ollie informs his partner that he might not be going back. He's in love with the inn keepers daughter, and wants to stay and marry her. There is only one small wrinkle: Not only doesn't she love him, but she's already married to an officer in the French Foreign Legion. When Oliver finds out about the 'other man' he is distraught. He can't go on and decides to kill himself. Dragging Stan down to the Seine with him, he's about to throw himself into the river, and take Stan along with him for good measure, when a member of the Foreign Legion happens across the unhappy pair. Hearing of their troubles, he talks them into joining the Legion, guaranteeing that Ollie will forget his love.
Stan and Ollie join up, but the life of a Legionnaire is a lot harder than they ever imagined. When a workman brings them a truck piled high with vegetables and orders the pair to peal them all, Ollie suddenly comes to the realization that he HAS forgotten about his love. That means that they can go back to Iowa. But leaving the Legion isn't as easy as getting in, and when they run away from the fort they are charged with desertion and the police are sent after them.
This was the first film that Laurel and Hardy made away from Hal Roach. They were having a rough time with contract negotiations, and though they would do a couple of more films for Roach after this one, their relationship with him was quickly coming to an end. Flying Deuces was made on the cheap for RKO, and though Laurel and Hardy's regular writers were not involved (though comedian Harry Langdon did work on the script) this movie comes across as being very similar to the films they made with Hal Roach. They had a good amount of freedom on this picture, (something that they wouldn't have when they moved to Fox in a little more than a year,) and their style and charm still shine through.
A revisit in a lot of ways to their earlier film Beau Hunks, this movie is very humorous, with a lot of prat falls and physical jokes, but also a good amount of verbal comedy. Some of the banter between the boys was very funny, like when they hear that they are to be executed for desertion:
Oliver: Shot at sunrise!
Stanley: I hope it's cloudy tomorrow.
There are a lot of plays on words too, such as when Stanley gets mad at Ollie for wanting to kill himself: "After all the hospital I've given you. Why I've waited on your hand and foot!"
But the best parts are when they mix the physical gags and verbal jabs. The scene where Oliver is going to kill himself is a standout. After tying the middle of a rope around a large rock, he ties one end to his waist and the other around Stan. When Stan complains, he calmly explains that it's for the best. After all, what will Stan do without Ollie to help him?
In addition to the great fun the boys have in the film, be sure to look for the old Laurel and Hardy regular James Finlayson in a bit part as the jailer. He does a great job. James is just funny to look at, and he puts his physical appearance to great use.
This single sided DVD comes in an Amaray case without an insert. Unfortunately it appears that this was mastered off of a PAL video. What this means is that the movie runs a little fast due to the way film is transfered to the PAL format. This movie clocks in at 65 minutes, about 4% shorter than the 69 minutes it is supposed to run. (This doesn't mean that scenes are missing, just that the 69 minute film is 'projected' in 65 minutes.)
The two channel mono soundtrack wasn't outstanding, but pretty good. There was a very light hiss in the background, that was only noticeable during the most quiet parts. There was some distortion in the audio also, with "s" sounds being a little slurred. Most of these defects are undoubtedly in the original print.
The restored video looks good, though not pristine. There are some scratches and a little dirt on the print, but these are minor. The image is a little soft, but the contrast is very good. Details in dark areas such as when they are escaping from their jail cell through a tunnel are very good. The image does appear to be window boxed slightly, with black bars around all four sides.
Unfortunately this print does not have the original R.K.O. opening credits, but instead sports the Astor Pictures rerelease titles. Another problem with the print used is that the credits at the end are missing. The screen fades to black, and instead of showing the cast, there are 35 seconds of music set playing over the black background.
Even with these errors, this restored image looks much better than any of the budget releases that I have seen.
This DVD has an excellent number of bonus features included along with the movie.
There is a two and a half minute introduction by Serge Bromberg, director of Lobster Films. His introduction is in French, with English non-removable subtitles. He talks a little about the making of the film.
There are several rare shorts and excerpts to be found in the extra section. Laurel and Hardy at Tynemouth is an eight minute short of the duo in candid moments when on vacation in 1932. This is silent with intertitle cards in English, as is Laurel and Hardy in Edinburgh, a similar short that is 6 minutes long.
The Stolen Jools (also known as The Slippery Pearls) is a two reel short that is packed with stars. It was a promotional picture the was made to raise funds for the National Variety Artists tuberculosis sanatarium. Laurel and Hardy have a short part and play a pair of policeman. The best aspect of this short is seeing all the stars. Every one from Gary Cooper to Joan Crawford and Buster Keaton make an appearance. Not very funny, but fun to watch.
Laurel and Hardy make a rare color appearance in The Tree in a Test Tube. This 5 minute educational short has the boys silently illustrating, with the help of a narrator, how many items are made of wood.
The last video extra is an episode of This is Your Life where Ralph Edwards gives a tribute to Laurel and Hardy. The video is rather poor, but it is still a fun show to watch. The original commercials are included.
In addition to these films, there is a section of publicity for the film, including the original French Trailer, (without subtitles,) a poster gallery, and a selection of production stills and promotional material.
While this isn't Laurel and Hardy's best film, it is very very good, and the last quality film that they would make. There are some classic scenes, and the pair singing and dancing to Harvest Moon is a favorite of mine. Normally I am very happy with the job that Lobster and Kino do on their DVDs, but the incorrect opening titles and lack of cast credits left me disappointed. The PAL to NTSC speed up was also a little troubling, but that didn't bother me much since the only way I could tell was by looking at the run time. The video quality is good, but not as outstanding. Still, this disc beats every other copy I've seen on DVD by a long shot. Fans of the pair should definitely pick this DVD up. Recommended.