Tag Archives: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Busy Bodies

Cover of "Laurel & Hardy (Sons of the Des...

Cover via Amazon

Directed by Lloyd French
Produced by Hal Roach
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Charlie Hall
Tiny Sandford
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 7 October 1933

This is another fine Laurel & Hardy short film from the early 1930s. It features lots of funny slapstick and is perhaps one of their funniest movies. A lot of the film plays out like a silent film, despite being made in 1933, with Stan in particular showing off his pantomime skills. The film gave me a few good chuckles and doesn’t seem to have dated too badly.

Advertisements

Westworld

Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul Lazarus III
Written by Michael Crichton
Starring Yul Brynner
Richard Benjamin
James Brolin
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Gene Polito
Editing by David Bretherton
Distributed by MGM
Release date November 21, 1973
Running time 88 min. (theatrical)
Country US
Language English

Westworld was a film that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of an out of control robot Yul Brynner chasing me and he couldn’t be killed, which is basically the plot of this movie.The Simpsons parodied the film in the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode.

It’s an enjoyable film to watch but not as scary as I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s an interesting concept of having a theme park full of robots that run amok due to a computer virus. Of course the film (and book it was based on) was made before everyone had a home computer so the idea of computer viruses was virtually unknown. I like some of the little things that Yul does that remind us that he is not human but a robot, such as the way in which he walks while stalking the hero Richard Benjamin.

I notice that Westworld is set to be remade with Russell Crowe in the lead role. I don’t see the point of a remake of what is a great film but if that is the case hopefully it is better than the remake of Robin Hood. It seems that Hollywood has run out of original ideas as now there are so many mediocre remakes or sequals to earlier films. This may be a topic for another time but how many crappy remakes have their been in the last decade?


Freaks

Directed by Tod Browning
Produced by Tod Browning
Written by Tod Robbins
Starring Wallace Ford
Leila Hyams
Olga Baclanova
Henry Victor
Harry Earles
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Editing by Basil Wrangell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date February 20, 1932
Running time Original cut 90 min.
Released cut 64 min.
Country United States
Language English

“We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”

Freaks is an interesting film that perhaps doesn’t deserve its notoriety. It’s not particularly scary or very well acted. The movie was banned in Britain (and Australia too I guess) for thirty years but it’s not that bad. There is a twist in the film in that the true monsters of the picture are not the Freaks themselves, but the supposedly normally looking aerialist and strongman who try to exploit one of the Freaks for their own profit. Perhaps the film works better as a satirical piece than as a horror film. It’s worth a look but I don’t think it deserves to be held as the 15th sacriest film of all-time. It is a film of its time though.


Blockheads

Directed by John G. Blystone
Produced by Hal Roach Jr. & Hal Roach
Written by Felix Adler

Arnold Belgard

Harry Langdon
James Parrott
Charley Rogers
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Patricia Ellis

Minna Gombell

Billy Gilbert
Jimmy Finlayson
Music by Marvin Hatley
Cinematography Art Lloyd
Editing by Bert Jordan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date August 19, 1938
Running time 57 min.
Language English

Universal Australia has just released a lot of Laurel & Hardy dvds onto the market. These are from the British DVD set which have been remastered. These dvds aren’t even available in America. These are currently selling in Big W for $8.80. While all of the disc in the set contain some fine Laurel & Hardy films the ones that are essential for any comedy lover are Volume 14 – A Job To Do/Classic Shorts, which features The Music Box (the short film where they try to deliver a piano up a flight of stairs), Volume 13 – Sons Of The Desert/Related Shorts, Volume 3 – Way Out West/Related Shorts, Sons Of The Desert and Way Out West being Laurel & Hardy’s best known feature films. Volume 16 – Maritime Adventures/Classic Shorts features another one of the duos best short films, Towed In A Hole, which is the film where they go fishing. Still as I said earlier all of the dvds are worth owning.

Blockheads was released in 1938. This is the film where after WWI Stan has been left behind in the trenches for twenty years not knowing that the war has finished. When he finally finds out he goes back to America where he is reunited with Ollie and chaos occurs. There are quite a few laugh out loud moments which is quite rare when watching movies over 70 years old.

I was reading the other day about why Laurel & Hardy have such a great appeal even now. They aren’t known for any violent slapstick like The Three Stooges, or any smartass one liners like Groucho Marx or W.C. Fields. The author of the book I was reading (whose title escapes me right now) said that basically Stan and Ollie are big babies and that it is this child-like quality that appeals to fans, especially children. I’m not so sure about that but I do know that they were very funny together.


The Time Machine

Directed by George Pál
Produced by George Pál
Written by David Duncan
H. G. Wells (novel)
Starring
Rod Taylor
Alan Young
Yvette Mimieux
Sebastian Cabot
Whit Bissell
Music by Russell Garcia
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 17 August 1960
Running time 103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Time Machine is a sci-fi film made in 1960 by George Pal and stars Robert Taylor. It roughly follows the plot of H.G. Wells’ novel from the late 19th century in which an inventor creates a time machine and goes into the future to discover that mankind has torn itself apart through war. It does of course deviate away from the novel as it features scenes of World War I, World War II and the possibility of nuclear annihilation, things that Wells could not have possibly predicted.

When Taylor’s character H. George Wells goes into the future (1966 to be exact) and discovers that the world has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, he then decides to go thousands of years into the future to see i anything could have survived this destruction. He discovers that the human race has split into two species, the surface dwelling Eloi who are beautiful and seemingly carefree and ignorant, and the underground Morlocks, who are ugly and beastly and cruel. The Eloi have everything that they need provided to them by the Morlocks, who breed them like cattle only to cannibalise on them once they reach an age of maturity.

George ends up saving the Eloi and destroying the Morlocks and in doing so falls in love with the beautiful Eloi girl Weena. He then goes back to his own time where he relates his tale but is not believed by his friends. Because of this he returns to the future at the conclusion of the film.

The film is a typical 1960s type sci-fi film, of which their were hundreds. It is a very good fantsy film but the special effects are not all that special by 21st century standards. The use of stop motion animation and time-lapse photography is very quant when compared to today’s CGI but it was state of the art for its time. All in all the film is quite enjoyable as there has been a lot of thought put into the plot and the feelings of Taylor’s character. While the acting is a bit over the top, which was standard for 1950s and 60s sci-fi I still liked the movie.

By the way you may recognise Alan Young who plays Wells’ friend Filby. You may even recognise the Scottish accent he uses throughout the film. At around the same time that the Time Machine was released he was appearing in the first season of TV’s Mr. Ed as Wilbur Post. Since the 1980s he has lent his voice and Scottish accent to Uncle Scrooge McDuck for Disney.


Go West

Directed by Edward Buzzell
Produced by Jack Cummings
Written by Irving Brecher
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
John Carroll
Diana Lewis
Music by George Bassman (orchestrations)
Georgie Stoll (music direction)
Cinematography Leonard Smith
Editing by Blanche Sewell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) 1940
Running time 80 min.

I love the Marx Bros. and even though Go West isn’t their best film it still has its enjoyable moments, especially when Groucho, Chico and Harpo are together. Their antics are as funny as usual, it’s just that when they are not on camera the film is not very interesting. And that is the problem with all the MGM Marx Bros. films. When the Marxes are not on-screen there is usually some terrible side romance plot between a couple of really boring actors. Worse is when they have to sing, which is something that I never understood about Marx Bros. films. Why do they feature these horrible songs sung by the supporting players? Usually the Groucho would have a really funny song or two that he would sing in each of his films but that is sadly lacking in Go West. We do get Chico playing the piano and Harpo playing the harp, which like the non-Groucho songs force a viewer to press the fast forward button. I really shouldn’t complain about this as it is a feature of all of the Marx Bros. MGM films. Instead I should be talking about the funny stuff like Groucho’s snappy one liners and Chico and Harpo fleecing their brother with the $10 bill at the railway station before they head west. There is also the destruction of the train at the film’s finale that is a kind of iconic image in cinema history. It is a funny film if you can put up with the lousy singing and boring instrument playing.


Way Out West

Directed by James W. Horne
Produced by Stan Laurel & Hal Roach
Written by Jack Jevne, Charley Rogers, Felix Adler & James Parrott
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
James Finlayson
Rosina Lawrence
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date April 16, 1937 (U.S.)
Running time 65 minutes
Language English

Way Out West is an old-fashioned film, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Like many comedies made in the 1930s it has dated a lot, yet even compared to its contemporaries it feels old-fashioned.  Even though it was made in 1937 and is a talkie (only Chaplin was still making silent movies at this time) it feels almost like a silent film, probably because there are so many cut shots to either James Finlayson or Oliver Hardy doing a take and mugging for the camera. This of course was something that was common in the silent era but it is something that becameoutdated as the 30s wore on. You’d rarely see Groucho Marx mugging silently at the camera after some minor tragedy had been bestowed upon him. (If the camera ever cut to Groucho he’d make sure he had a quip.) I don’t mean this as a criticism, just as an observation.

Having said that Way Out West is enjoyable if only because the two main stars of the film. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are so likable and work so well together that you have to laugh at their antics. They were both veterans of the cinema at this time and had worked together for over a decade. Here their great chemistry is on show in the skits, while their song Ballad Of A Lonesome Pine is a treat. You still have this feeling that this is all very old-fashioned, but in a good way. There is also a great chemistry that the boys have with their co-star James Finlayson, although I did think he spent too much time mugging for the camera. The movie is kind of short, at only 65 minutes long, so it never overstays its welcome either and is a good introduction for anyone who wants to watch the films of Laurel & Hardy.