Mrs. Hardy insists that Oliver mount the radio aerial on the roof before he goes off gallivanting with his friend Stanley. But with Stanley's assistance, Oliver spends more time falling off the roof than atop it. Making one last attempt, Oliver climbs to the top of a ladder he's mounted on his Model T Ford, but just then Stanley accidentally starts the car. A wild ride through the streets of Culver City culminates in an unscheduled streetcar stop. Written by
Paul Penna <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ingredients: Stan, Ollie, the roof, a radio aerial . . . oh, and a runaway car!
At a time when Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and other great silent comedy stars were struggling to deal with the new technology of sound recording, Laurel & Hardy were doing some of the best work of their career simply by continuing to make the sort of movie they'd been making all along. Hog Wild, a highly enjoyable talkie short released in the spring of 1930, is a case in point. The premise is that the boys must install the Hardys' new radio aerial on the roof before Mrs. Hardy will allow them to go out-- it seems that she wants to "get Japan" --and needless to say, the work doesn't go all that smoothly. Just the sight of these guys setting up a ladder on the back of Mr. Laurel's car is enough to get the chuckles started. But where film-making technique is concerned the team could have made substantially the same movie as a silent short a year or two earlier without changing much. Most of the action, after all, consists of sight gags and slapstick up on the roof of the Hardy home, topped with a wild ride in a runaway car through the streets of Culver City, one of L&H's all-time best finales. Dialog is kept to a minimum, and what dialog there is between Stan and Ollie and Ollie's wife is simple and straightforward, without any of the strained wisecracks we hear in some other early talkies featuring other performers.
But although the material is primarily visual, I'm glad this film was made with sound for a couple of reasons. Ollie and his wife (Fay Holderness) have a spirited verbal tiff at the beginning concerning the whereabouts of Ollie's hat, and this sequence wouldn't be nearly as effective if we were reading the dialog on title cards. Oliver Hardy had a terrific voice, and he uses it to nice effect in this exchange, blasting his wife with heavy sarcasm . . . until he realizes that the hat in question has been sitting on his own head all along, at which point -- after directing one of his patented 'looks' into the camera -- he attempts to brazen it out by claiming he's just found the hat under the bed! Stan Laurel doesn't speak much here, but as ever the contrast between his soft Lancashire accent and Ollie's earthier tone achieves a mysteriously perfect blend. The boys were lucky; Lloyd and Keaton had voices that didn't seem to suit their looks, and limited what they could do in talkies, while Stan and Ollie were blessed with voices that suited their screen characters perfectly and guaranteed they would thrive in the new medium. The other reason I'm glad Hog Wild has a soundtrack is that this movie features some of the liveliest L&H musical themes, those incredibly catchy little tunes so familiar from the Hal Roach comedies of the '30s. The scenes of Stan and Ollie puttering away on the roof (and plummeting to the ground) are just made for this music, which serves as icing on the cake for their fans.
Hog Wild is a real treat, and that climactic sequence with the car, the ladder, and the double-decker bus can hold its own with the funniest and best-edited chase sequences devised by any of Laurel & Hardy's contemporaries.
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