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One of the many silent comedies Stan Laurel featured in before he teamed
with Oliver Hardy, 'Mud and Sand' is a ho-hum hokum. The story is badly
disjointed - though this could be because of the modern-day edit - and the
humor itself is not at all inventive.
Potential plotlines are started and ignored; for instance, Stan's promise to make Fillet de Sole pay for what she's done to him never comes to fruition. Stan's character doesn't seem very centered, either, but this is a common criticism of his work before he developed 'Stanley' of Laurel & Hardy fame, so it might be that I was just expecting to see this shortcoming.
I strongly believe that all the silent films should be preserved and viewed, and I'm glad this one is still available. It's just not a great film.
Before Stan Laurel became the smaller half of the all-time greatest
comedy team, he laboured under contract to Broncho Billy Anderson in a
series of cheapies, many of which were parodies of major Hollywood
features. Most of Laurel's 'parody' films are only mildly funny, and
even less funny for modern audiences who haven't seen the original
movie which Laurel is parodying. Fortunately, 'Mud and Sand' lampoons a
movie which is still well known: 'Blood and Sand', starring Rudolph
Valentino. 'Blood and Sand' was released only nine weeks before this
parody, giving you some idea of how quickly Broncho Billy's movies were
ground out, edited and distributed.
Various sources (including IMDb) state that Stan Laurel's character in this film is named Rhubarb Vaselino, with a final 'o'. I've screened a print of 'Mud and Sand' with the original titles (in Hobo type font), so I report that Laurel's role is actually cried Rhubarb Vaseline, with an 'e'. But I agree that 'Vaselino' is funnier. Laurel copies the elaborate sideburns which Valentino wore in 'Blood and Sand' (he should've made them longer!), and there's a parody of Valentino's dressing scene from that movie, which made female movie-goers swoon in 1922. A señorita named Carmen in the original film is parodied here as Caramel (a girl I'd like to sink my teeth into).
This movie (like the original) apparently takes place in Spain, yet there's a Prohibition gag. Laurel uses a distinctive hat-tipping gesture here which could have become a trademark for him (like Hardy's distinctive necktie twiddle), but I've never spotted it in any other Laurel film. There's some amusing dialogue: Rhubarb Vaseline tells the other matadors to 'Save a bull for me.' When Vaseline becomes a successful toreador, a lackey tells him 'The bull is without, sir' ... which is funny, but I was disappointed that Laurel didn't reply 'Without WHAT?'.
There's one funny moment here which almost certainly wasn't planned, when Vaseline shows up for the bullfighter auditions. Laurel swaggers into the bullring, and -- before you can say 'corrida querida' -- he tosses a bull over the fence, where it lands with a thump near the other auditioners. The bull is obviously a fake, but the gag is funny anyway ... and, aye, there's a title card with a joke about 'throwing the bull'. The serendipitous moment occurs when Laurel repeats the gag, and Vaseline slings a second bull over the fence. This one lands on its butt, and balances upright for just an instant before toppling. VERY funny! If somebody planned that gag in this quickie comedy, I salute the unknown gagsmith ... and the tech man who rigged the bull to land in that position. More likely it happened by luck, and the director and editor were smart enough to keep it in.
During the silent era, whenever Hollywood made a big-budget feature film which was set anyplace where the people don't speak English, it was a common cinematic device to show a piece of text or an inscription in the local lingo, then dissolve to a shot of the same text in English. I was surprised that this low-budget comedy spent the money to copy that device here: we see a notice-board outside the corrida with a message in Spanish, then it dissolves to the same text in English. Unfortunately, the photography in this cheapo movie is so dark that the effect is wasted.
The actresses in this movie are attractive ... including Broncho Billy's wife Leona Anderson and Stan Laurel's common-law wife Mae Dahlberg; the latter briefly does a pretty dance. (Mae had danced in Stan's vaudeville act.) I was surprised to spot Charlie Chaplin's half-brother Wheeler Dryden in a brief role, since Chaplin had nothing to do with this movie. In 'Mud and Sand', Laurel gives a funny performance that's quite unlike his later familiar Stanley character ... but this film is much less funny than his brilliant work with Oliver Hardy. My rating: just 3 out of 10. TRIVIA NOTE: Twenty-three years later, in Stan Laurel's very last American film -- 'The Bullfighters' (1945) -- he again played a Spanish bullfighter (with his Spanish voice post-dubbed). Coincidentally, that film used stock footage from 'Blood and Sand': not Valentino's movie, but the Tyrone Power remake. 'Mud and Sand' is funnier than 'The Bullfighters', but not much.
Besides being an entertaining parody of Rudolph Valentino and of his
well-known feature "Blood and Sand", this movie also features Stan
Laurel in an interesting early role. As a character spoofing
Valentino's bullfighter role, Laurel has a lot of material to work
with, and although it was not written to accommodate Laurel's
particular strengths or style, it is still easy to see his talent
Most of the characters and story of "Mud and Sand" closely parallel the Valentino classic, often with puns on the character names or exaggerated slapstick that spoofs the action in the original. It was clearly made with the expectation that its viewers would be familiar with Valentino's movie, and a number of times the humor depends on remembering a character or plot development from it.
At the same time, there is also a fair amount of new material that works well on its own. The sequence showing the young bullfighter's first success, and the scene of him dressing for the final fight, both have some good gag ideas and interesting details.
At times, the gag ideas and the main character have noticeable similarities with Charlie Chaplin's style, while at other times the style simply reflects conventions common to the era. The Stan Laurel character that is so familiar from the Laurel & Hardy comedies is only glimpsed at odd moments.
Yet, while it usually takes a bit of an adjustment to watch Laurel in a different kind of role like this, it is also easy to see his range of comic abilities here. This feature is also entertaining in its own right, especially for those who have seen the movie that it parodies.
Seeing Laurel without Hardy in a film seems strange, yet it's entertaining all the same. It's a well done parody of what became a classic silent film and it showcases Stan's talents very well. While his pictures with Oliver Hardy were great, these early solo efforts give you an idea of how skilled he was at his craft and how great he might have been had he continued in the tradition of Keaton and Chaplin as an individual star on his own. The dance sequence with his real-life wife in the café scene is the best part of the picture, and has some pretty funny bits to go with Laurel's excellent dance steps. And the bullfight climax is a gem, as even the bull takes a pratfall. And I like the irony in the scene where he's buried in hats and comes up wearing his familiar Laurel and Hardy bowler hat. As much as I love the Laurel and Hardy team and feel that there was never a funnier comedy duo on screen during their prime, it's nice to see them on their own once in a while (check out THE FIGHTING KENTUCKIAN that Hardy made with the Duke as another fine example.) Dale Roloff
If you want to see a film starring Stan laurel from the Laurel & Hardy comedies, this is not the film for you. Stan would not begin to find the character and rhythms of those films for another two years. If, however, you want a good travesty of the Rudolph Valentino BLOOD AND SAND, which had been made the previous year, this is the movie for you. All the stops are pulled out, both in physical comedy and on the title cards and if the movie is not held together by character, the plot of Valentino's movie is used -- well sort of.
This is one of Stan Laurel's best solo comedy's, before the 1927 teaming with Oliver Hardy. Laurel is a very good actor in the film, and provides good comedy. The best scene in the film is when Stan dances with Mae Laurel (his real-life common law wife), at the Cafe Espanol. Stan does silly dances that are funny, without you hearing the music. I will recommend this to any Stan Laurel fan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Mud and Sand" is an American black-and-white film from almost 95 years ago that stars Stan Laurel, one of the most famous comedians from the 1920s. It is a silent film that spoofs another silent film and maybe, for me, this is what kills this 22-minute work. I do not know the film that this one here is based on and it seems absolutely essential to understand the action here and it is never good if one movie requires having watched another. Apart from that, Laurel is really not that funny here and it seems he needs Hardy to show his great skill and it is probably true the other way around too. So yeah, this film is not among the most known Laurel films from between the 2 wars and I personally can see why it is not so famous. It is a very forgettable watch and I cannot recommend it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was unlike any silent film I've ever seen - it was absolutely silent! I mean there wasn't even any music for it's entire forty minutes or so. I don't know if that was just a quirk of the print I viewed; it came packaged as part of a two disc Laurel and Hardy Collection from Diamond Entertainment. Not knowing how long I'd be able to take the silent treatment, I just settled in comfortably and it managed to be entertaining enough if you're a Stan Laurel fan. For me, the interest was in seeing how this funny comic got his start in pictures. Apparently I have the forty minute English version of the story as opposed to the shorter American release. Once under way it didn't click with me that this should be a bullfight story until I made the connection with the Valentino film that this one parodies. Although the scene didn't make much sense, the funniest bit had Stan's character Rhubarb Vaselino throwing his first three bull victims right out of the arena! Stan of course is off screen, otherwise the film makers would have had to make this impossible feat somehow look credible. Overall the film offers a few glimpses of Stan's adept timing which would be honed to comic perfection in a few years upon teaming with Oliver Hardy. Not too shabby after knocking around and throwing the bull for a few years.
This Stan Laurel flick was a parody of Rudolph Valentino's Blood and
Sand, and so might be funnier if you're familiar with the original
film. I've never seen it, so many of the gags here left me cold. A
young Stan Laurel tries manfully to make a go of it but doesn't yet
possess the necessary star quality to pull this one off and flounders
amidst a wealth of unfunny scenes.
He plays a character called Rhubarb Vaseline (think about it ), and we are first introduced to him as he strolls down a lane hand in hand with his bullfighting friend. Hmmm, definitely something effeminate about our Rhubarb I can't imagine what point the writers were trying to make. There are a few good sight gags the dance scene is probably the funniest and an endless play on the word 'bull' before the end credits roll after nearly forty minutes, but overall this one isn't very good.
Mud and Sand is one of Stan Laurel's spoofs of the popular movies at the time, this one being of Rudolph Valentino's Blood and Sand (hence Stan being Rhubarb Vaselino). While partly inconsistent on characterization (how did he defeat those bulls in the beginning is not explained), this was mostly funny from beginning to end with one of the best sequences being a dance he does with his then common-law wife, Mae Laurel. Another funny sequence concerns his reluctance with romancing a femme fatale, Filet de Sole, while his wife, Caramel, is waiting for him that shows some glimpses of his later innocent character with Oliver Hardy. Well worth seeing for anyone interested in seeing Mr. Laurel's early work before his fateful teaming that made him popular around the world.
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