On his way to collect inheritance in the small town on Hot Dog, Stan gets robbed by highwaymen, one of which is the other person who shall attend the reading of their late Uncle's will. The... See full summary »
Stationed in a Latin American country, sailor Stan is lonely and wants company. He tries to get his Chief to bring him along to a dinner the Chief has been invited to, but the Chief wants ... See full summary »
'The Sleuth', directed by my friend the late Joe Rock, is a starring vehicle for Stan Laurel pre-Hardy. Laurel is excellent here, playing a character quite different from his later 'Stanley' dimwit. He's Webster Dingle, a private detective. Alberta Vaughn walks into his office; her husband (Glen Cavender, excellent) is a flirt and a crook, so she wants Laurel to arrest him. (For which offence, please?)
Laurel infiltrates the household as a parlourmaid! Stan Laurel was one of the few male comedians who could plausibly impersonate a woman (another such was Roscoe Arbuckle), and he's an absolute delight here in his maid's uniform and wig. Daringly, when we first see Laurel in female garb in this movie, he's standing with his back to the camera and wearing a hat -- thus drawing attention to the size and shape of his male body rather than relying on female cosmetics or a feminine hairstyle -- and yet he's still passable as a woman. In this scene, Laurel also uses a capelet to minimise his male shoulders ... but he didn't need it! In a later sequence, once again in female disguise, Laurel vamps the villains in an outfit that exposes his bare arms and shoulders ... and he's STILL believable as a woman!
Most of Laurel's performance in this film -- in various disguises, male and female -- is quite subtle and funny, but he still can't resist a bit of the hand-to-brow histrionics of his earlier and coarser comedies. Laurel also has one 'impossible' gag here that's badly done: after exiting a shot from the left side of the screen, he almost instantly re-enters at the right side of the screen. I wasn't expecting this, so I didn't watch for a jump cut. However, he killed the gag a few seconds later in the same shot, when he AGAIN exited at the left and then AGAIN re-entered at the right. This time, because I was expecting it, I spotted the join in the jump cut. Film-making 101: never do the same trick twice the same way; your audience will spot it the second time.
There are some truly hilarious gags here, with female hands constantly snatching off Laurel's various disguises. I laughed uproariously at one sequence, when a whole band of Cavender's henchmen queue up to cosh Laurel ... and he uses an amazingly effective trick to make them all cosh each other instead. Very funny! I'll rate 'The Sleuth' 9 out of 10. Laurel's performance here is very different from his Stan-and-Ollie turns, and 'The Sleuth' is easily much funnier than some of the poorer Laurel and Hardy comedies.
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