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An early Laurel & Hardy talkie, `The Hoose-Gow' is strongest in its first half the pathetic attempts at escape, the sheer terror on Stan's face as he tries to dislodge the apple from his mouth, the absolute fear and despondency of two child-souls set down amongst a hardened prison population. Also priceless: Ollie's guileless explanation to guard Tiny Sanford: "Honest, officer, we were only watching the raid." Somehow, coming from Stan and Ollie, the statement rings of truth. In the work camp, things settle into the traditional Stan and Ollie mealtime gags. When they chop down the lookout's post it's another of those gags of anticipation which was such an integral part of their humor. And it's to their credit that most of the film is shot on location, something uncommonly problematic for the early sound technology of the late 20s. There is also something wistfully nostalgic about those Arcadian, windswept eucalyptus-lined locations of southern California, so unpopulated in 1929. Once they get involved in the creamed rice fight at the end, it descends into rather standard fare.
A LAUREL & HARDY Comedy Short. Stan & Ollie have finally
gotten themselves thrown into THE HOOSE-GOW. Having failed
miserably in an escape attempt, they find themselves assigned
to a road gang - digging ditches. Creating havoc all around
them, the Boys even manage to assault the visiting State
Governor, eventually involving prisoners, guards & VIP's in
frantic free-for-all with handfuls of boiled rice.
This early talkie is rather unpolished in construction, but Stan & Ollie are always fun to watch. Slapstick humor abounds, especially in the finale. James Finlayson plays the Governor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The prison paddywagon brought in a bunch of people, among them were Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, who claimed they were only watching the raid. But nobody believed them. The warden was always on them. But Ollie had a plan to get out. A man gave him two apples, once they throw them over the wall, the man's friends lower a ladder and they're free. It sadly didn't work, especially since Stan swallowed one of the apples. Next they were on the chain gang. Stan's picks kept getting caught on Ollie's jacket. So he gave him a shovel, assuring him he could do no damage with that, only he hit Ollie on the head with it. Soon it was lunch time. There was no more room but the cook said he'd give them food in exchange for wood, so Stan and Ollie go to chop down a tree. They chopped down the look-out tower; Pretty soon, the governor arrived. And when returning to work, the boys' pick strikes the governor's car's radiator. They try to fix it with rice, only it mixes with the radiator fluid and it all turns into a mushy mess, which the prisoners, guard, and governor throw at one another.
An interesting Laurel & Hardy short. Still in their first series with sound! Tiny Sanford is the warden. He also plays Stan and Ollie's boss in Busy Bodies. James Finlayson is the governor, he's also a veteran Laurel & Hardy player. Other frequent players seen here are Charlie Hall and Baldwin Cooke! So if you can find it, I recommend The Hoose-Gow!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Laurel and Hardy are already in enough trouble, having been falsely arrested and sent to prison where they should be released just so they don't accidentally burn the prison down. They end up on a chain gang, try to chop a tree down that has a prison guard attached to it, and overfilling the governor's car up with gasoline with amusing results. This was two years before they starred in their first feature, "Pardon Us", a more detailed prison comedy. While photographed by George Stevens, this has some creaky moments of little sound, but that wet goo fight at the end is straight out of the keystone cops. A disturbing visual has Laurel's mouth stuffed with a whole apple which he can't get out and had me cringing.
James Parrot's short film The Hoose-Gow opens with Laurel and Hardy
being trafficked to prison after being mistaken for involvement in a
hold-up. The two spend their days digging ditches, cutting down trees,
and doing the hard manual labor in prison with the comedic longevity
expected from two of the greatest masterminds in silent/talkie comedy.
The two manage to get themselves into enough physical pain and trouble
that makes up for their false prison sentence, but the two push on and
try to pay their dues, even if it results in grave injury.
This is one of the first times I've seen where slapstick really works for Laurel and Hardy. The Hoose-Gow doesn't make much of an effort to incorporate a lot of verbal wit, and instead, emphasizes the physical elements. For some reason, perhaps the result of a mood-change or an unconscious desire, I was pleased by the slapstick here, especially during the scenes when Hardy is attempting to cut down a tree and Laurel keeps getting in the way, nearly missing the sharp blade of the pickaxe. Scenes like that provide for slapstick that almost seems improvisational rather than a copout for screen writing.
One can tell, however, this is an early sound-short because of the lack of formal dialog. The Hoose-Gow could've really been a silent short and simply had the timely luxury of being able to be produced with sound. My only assumption to the lack of real conversation was writers at the time, in this case, H.M. Walker, who wrote most of Laurel and Hardy's short films, was just getting used to screen writing with audible dialog, making the early sound-shorts lack the kind of leisurely- paced dialog that would be present in Laurel and Hardy's later shorts. It's not a particular flaw, just a difficultly in adapting on part of the short's crew, but it would've made for a more witty short.
Yet The Hoose-Gow accomplishes a feat I never really thought possible with Laurel and Hardy shorts, which is make them more slapstick driven than dialog driven and have them turn out successful. For that, the film deserves a huge plus, and the fact that this is the most active I've seen both men in any project only adheres to their credibility has fantastic physical performers.
Starring: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Directed by: James Parrot.
Despite their protestations of innocence, Laurel and Hardy find
themselves on a prison working on a prison road crew where they make a
shambles of an inspection visit by the governor.
"The Hoose-gow" was Laurel & Hardy's sixth talkie short and a step in the right direction in recovering the energy and verve of their best silent shorts. Shot almost entirely outdoors, this film doesn't have the claustrophobic, studio-bound feel that hindered some of their earlier talkies. The sound mix must have had some level of sophistication. Look at some of the road crew scenes. The wind is whipping up the branches on some of bushes right behind them. With the microphones of the time, that dialogue must've been unusable. The dubbing was fine.
The plot of the film is simple but serviceable. Nothing new, but nice. It works its way to a nice, rice throwing battle, which, if not on the level of "Two Tars" or "Big Business," is certainly adequate. The supporting cast is good, featuring the always reliable Tiny Sanford and James Finlayson.
Not a classic, but worth watching. Up to this point, their best talkie with the possible exception of "Men O'War."
This is an okay Laurel and Hardy film--about average overall. While the plot is a bit different than most of their films, the team did do several films where they were convicts (such as LIBERTY and PARDON US). And, of these films, this is perhaps my least favorite. It isn't because the film is really bad, but a lot of the humor isn't all that memorable and the rice throwing at the end seems very derivative--throwing pies, etc. is almost a cliché since it's been seen a lot already in older comedies. I just don't see why throwing food is funny--it just seems like a cheap laugh. If you are a die-hard fan, then this IS a film for you. For others who are not familiar with the duo, find another film first--this film isn't magical or a must-see film.
Despite claiming to be innocent bystanders when a raid occurs, Laurel and
Hardy are sentenced to jail time along with the criminals themselves.
Despite trying to reason with a guard they find themselves working a gang
digging ditches all day every day.
Any short film that needs a great deal of set up before it actually starts going anywhere, is asking for trouble. On the surface that may not totally be the case here but I suspect it is one of it's weaknesses. The plot here sounds good but it has a few little unnecessary things that are needed to get it to it's original idea (I assume) which is the prison gang.
Once it reaches this stage it is funny but never feels like it reaches a peak. Individual moments are good but it doesn't have any really good sequences I found the rice fight to be so-so rather than hilarious I'm afraid.
Laurel and Hardy are good of course but they seem to be hampered by a film that requires them to do things that aren't funny just to set up a joke that is funny. This split of time is almost 50/50 so the result is that the film doesn't seem to be as full and lively as their shorts are normally. Finlayson is usually my favourite support actor in the Laurel and Hardy shorts but here he doesn't get to do his trademark moves and is more of a straight man than a part of the comedy.
Overall this is still worth watching but I thought it was one of those rare occasions where the duo simply couldn't stretch the central idea to cover the whole short.
As some people have already pointed out on this page THE HOOSE GOW isn`t by
any means the best of the L&H shorts , and when I saw it last week BBC 2
made the error of showing it after THE LAUREL AND HARDY MURDER CASE which is
my all time Stan and Ollie short
Not to be too negative the action starts with a van arriving at a prison and thus we arrive at the start of the story . This is a better opening than a few other of these shorts where Stan and Ollie bumble around for a few minutes in a scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the story . I could be cruel and point out the character interaction is somewhat confusing since a fellow prisoner tries to get Stan and Ollie out of the clink then plays a practical joke on them with the warders table , but like I said that would be cruel and when you stop to think about it maybe the worst thing that could happen to someone in the American penal system in the 1920s is having Stan and Ollie as cellmates . Imagine Chris Keller and Vern Shillinger from OZ walked into this Laurel and Hardy story !
I would much prefer to watch a talking Laurel and Hardy than a good silent Laurel and Hardy. 'The Hoose-Gow' is no exception. I watched it once, and although it wasn't memorable, it was still part of the classic era of Laurel and Hardy leading up to 'The Music Box'.
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