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It's the midst of the Great Depression as well as Prohibition. Stan
Laurel and Oliver Hardy have decided to brew their own stuff, and what
they can't drink, they'll sell. Well, they made the mistake of selling
some beer to two undercover cops and the boys are incarcerated. They're
taken to a brutal and unfriendly prison. They are taken before the
warden who speaks nicely to them. But then Stan's loose tooth, which
makes a buzzing noise whenever he speaks goes off. The warden is
insulted and has them sent to their cell at once. The boys soon meet
their new cell mate, evil, wild-eyed The Tiger. The next day at the
prison school, Tiger gets Stan and Ollie in real hot water with the
teacher, who wasn't having much success teaching his class when really
he didn't know too much himself, so Stan and Ollie are sent to solitary
confinement, a.k.a the hole. When they get out some time later, The
Tiger and his men were plotting a jail break and were going to use two
flunkies to lead the way. Ollie and Stan were selected. The jail break
was aborted by the guards just in time, however Stan and Ollie had
successfully escaped. They hid out in a cotton field a few miles from
the prison. There, they put on blackface and disguised themselves as
migrant workers. They fit right in.
That evening, Ollie serenades the gang with "Lazy Moon" while Stan dances. The next day, Stan and Ollie were working in the cotton fields when who should drive by but the warden and his daughter! Their car had broken down outside the fields and Stan and Ollie were eager to help. They were still wearing blackface so the warden didn't recognize them. They practically take the engine apart before they realize the car was out of gas. So when they fix the car, the warden happily thanks them and offers them work, but then Stan's tooth gave them away. The boys are returned to prison and thrown into the hole...Again; Stan is sent to the prison dentist, Dr. Jentyl, to fix his tooth. The dentist accidentally "fixed" Ollie's tooth first, but then he finally finds the right mouth and removes Stan's trouble...Or did he? The warden, meanwhile, received a tip that The Tiger and his large gang were planning a big escape. He put extra guards on duty. That evening in the mess hall, Tiger and his men secretly began passing out hand guns. Stan was passed a semi- automatic-- which he quickly set off. The prisoners scramble and the guards all begin firing. The prisoners fire back. Stan and Ollie were caught in the middle of a war zone.
Tiger and his men overthrow the guards and then go back for Stan and Ollie. Stan kept setting off the semi-automatic to keep them back, but eventually it ran out of ammo, but luckily the state militia came to the rescue; Stan and Ollie were commended for their part in apprehending Tiger and his men and so they were pardoned. The warden wished them luck and any help he could offer and all seemed well, until Stan offered to sell him a case of brew and his tooth buzzed again. The warden angrily chased the boys out of his office.
Well, now. Pardon Us, Laurel and Hardy's first talkie feature! Though they also starred in The Rogue Song of 1930, but they were actually secondary characters and unfortunately no known print of The Rogue Song exists today. But Pardon Us was the first feature in which Laurel and Hardy were headlined, and they played themselves. Also in the cast is Walter Long as the evil, wild-eyed Tiger, James Finlayson as the wacky, no-nonsense schoolteacher, veteran of the silent era Wilfred Lucas plays the yuppie warden, Tiny Sanford is the brutal prison guard and Laurel & Hardy veteran Charlie Hall is the dentist's assistant. This movie is rare today, and includes some material that just wouldn't fly if it were made today, such as the scene where Stan notices an African American cell mate and an Asian cell mate and comments, "Look, Amos and Andy". I don't get that, but I'm sure it's a joke. And when they are fixing the car, wearing blackface, Stan calls Oliver "Sambo". So it's dated. Big deal. It was 1931. That kind of stuff was common back then. Nobody from this film is alive today, unfortunately. But anyway, if you should be lucky to catch this film, see it! It's very good. Very well done. Classic Laurel & Hardy fare! I recommend Pardon Us! It's guilty of sheer comic brilliance in the first degree!
Being the lads first full length feature it's not surprising that much
of it feels like filler, certainly the jokes are not quick fire and the
culminating outcome doesn't quite leave the viewer fully satisfied.
However it should be noted that Laurel & Hardy's average output is
still better than most other duos who would follow in their slipstream,
and Pardon Us does have those moments that ooze comedy class. Witness
both Stan & Ollie trying to control a machine gun with typical riotous
results, enjoy Stanley's tooth problem that becomes a running gag, and
of course enjoy Oliver's incredulous looks at the camera. It's solid if
unspectacular, but certainly worth a watch now and then, 6/10.
Footnote: Other user comments allude to certain aspects being un PC for the modern age, who cares is what I say, this is after all Laurel & Hardy in the 30s, it worked then and really it still works now, harmless and enjoyable fun.
Laurel and Hardy are shopping for ingredients for their next get rich
scheme making and selling liquor during prohibition. Of course when
Laurel sells a bottle of beer to a policeman, there is only ever going
to be one outcome and the two finds themselves on the way to the big
house. Locked up with a mean spirited collection of fellas, Stan and
Oliver take their chance to escape and find themselves wanted men on
Having just watched the very structured "Our Relations" it was noticeable when I stepped back into the much looser Pardon Us. The basic plot is no more than a nail on which to hang a series of comic scenarios and, as such, it works because it is pretty funny for the majority. The story is pretty weak but it does allow for a solid spoof of jail clichés as well as a pretty un-PC but funny scene where the boys try to pass themselves off as cotton pickers. Despite not having this flow to it, the film does have a couple of good stand out scenes that will please everyone with their typical silliness and mix of looks and double-takes.
Laurel and Hardy are both on form and are served to their strengths well. Finlayson is wonderful in a great classroom scene and he got the biggest laughs from me with a master class in slow burns and double takes. Long is enjoyably tough as The Tiger while Lucas is a good warden. The support cast are roundly good even if they are mainly there to carry the scenes rather than the comedy. The musical numbers are obvious but still good with Hardy getting a good chance to show off his baritone talents.
Overall a thinly plotted affair but one that delivers quite a few memorable and hilarious scenes, connected with generally amusing moments.
In & out of prison, Stan & Ollie just can't seem to stay out
"PARDON US" was the Boys' first starring feature film. Rather disjointed and poorly edited, it plays more like a few of their short subjects strung together. However, the Boys never falter and they deliver a film whose parts are greater than its whole.
The film was meant to be a spoof of MGM's popular THE BIG HOUSE (1930) and it helps to have seen that earlier movie to fully appreciate this one. Many of the standard conventions of the typical prison film are mocked here: the understanding' warden, the dangerous convict cell mate, the confinement in Solitary, the escape chased by bloodhounds, the prison riot.
A few comedy pieces in particular stand out: Stan's loose tooth; Ollie in the dentist's chair; the Boys trying to settle into the constricted confines of an upper bunk. James Finlayson, Stan & Ollie's old nemesis, makes the most of his one scene as the prison schoolteacher driven to despair by the Boys' good-natured idiocy.
Walter Long is lots of fun as the Tiger, the meanest convict in the prison (Boris Karloff played the part for the French language version). Movie mavens will spot an uncredited Charlie Hall as the dental assistant.
An added delight is Babe Hardy's rendition of Lazy Moon,' one of the decade's finest film songs. Ollie had a warm, evocative voice, full of feeling and emotion. Here, backed by the magnificent Hall Johnson Choir, his song reaches out of the screen and down the decades to touch the hearts of the audience.
So says Ollie at the start of a sustained eleven-minute sequence where he
and Stan paint their hands and faces to hide amongst a black community. On
two occasions the paint gets washed off and has to be replaced; Stan with
dirt from a puddle, Ollie with oil. Like the stereotypical black people that
occupy the piece, it's one of those "would never be allowed nowadays"
moments that marks Pardon Us out as an unusual curio. The boundaries between
innocence and unintentional risk-taking occur throughout. Set largely in a
prison, there's a later scene where Stan is threatened by a knife, and an
inmate is shown to be a potential rapist when coming face to face with the
warden's daughter. Although Stan's sharing a bed with Hardy and the same
inmate promising that he and Stan will be "great pals" is played without any
form of sexual connotation.
This sort of politically incorrect humour is not only common to Pardon Us, however. In the following year's Pack Up Your Troubles the duo would pretend to have only one arm in order to escape being drafted into the army. Stan would pour boiling hot water over three men, while the two would steal $2000 from a bank. The 1932 film would also tackle the theme of wife battery and feature another race joke, which takes us back to Pardon us. In a curious scene, Stan mistakes two prisoners one black, one Asian as the radio "blackface" double-act, Amos and Andy. It's impossible to condemn the film on such matters, and I wouldn't even try, as that sort of thing was commonplace for the time it was made. But it's notable, and slightly alarming, even so. Whoever would have thought such naive humour still had the ability to shock seventy years on?
Laurel and Hardy perhaps never had wide ambitions, though did some pretty groundbreaking stuff in terms of stunts and special effects. More intelligent than The Three Stooges, they nevertheless didn't aspire to the same terms of art and film as, say, Chaplin. But while they may not be as admired as Charlie, Keaton or even Lloyd, they are doubtless more loved. Even though most of the jokes are clearly set-up, their assured execution, by Laurel, particularly, means they never fall flat. It must be said that the interplay between the two stars isn't as good as it would be, and that as their first full-length talkie, the pace is notably slower than what was to follow. The age of the silent movie is still felt throughout, with a lone damsel in distress in a burning building, and some overstated body language from the bit players. The film opens with a caption, and incidental music is almost omnipresent both now redundant, and slightly distracting. Though while the rapport between the two would be stronger - only their 24th talkie, they would appear in another 52 together after this - Pardon Us is still a fine example of their work. Stan's gormless, inane smile, dopey eyes and sticky ears are a delight, while his mastery of physical comedy is exceptional. Those who wish to build an argument that Stan was the talented one will be served here by a Hardy who gets to be second fiddle all the way, and is encouraged to double-take to camera a few too many times.
Lastly, two points come to mind. One is a dentist calling Stan "Rosebud" was Orson Welles inspired? And Ollie here says "another nice mess", not the oft-quoted "fine".
This was the first full-length movie from Laurel & Hardy, that last
over 1 hour long. Their first effort is definitely one of their better
Difference with most other Laurel & Hardy movies is that this one actually has a story and continuity in it. It's more than just one slapstick and comical moment after another and it's obvious that they definitely put lots of effort in the story. The movie is constantly funny although the movie could had done without those musical numbers in my opinion. It's extremely old fashioned and takes the pace right out of the movie.
Besides the two boys the movie also has some other memorable characters in it such as Wilfred Lucas as the jail warden, James Finlayson as the jail schoolteacher and Walter Long as fellow prisoner The Tiger. Especially Walter Long stands out in his role and he plays an extremely fun character who of course gives the two an hard time.
The movie is very fine constructed and build up to the memorable ending in which one big jail break is attempted. It's pretty violent stuff for Laurel & Hardy standards and I had never thought that I would ever see the two of them holding a gun. The ending is almost action movie like but it of course is also extremely hilarious at the same time.
There are quite some returning running gags in the movie that all help to make this movie a very memorable one. Also enough slapstick humor is present so fans of that will also be delighted with this movie.
In Laurel's and Hardy's first full length talking picture the boys go behind bars.And Stan's loose tooth gets the boys in trouble many times, when it starts making a funny noise every time he speaks.Pardon Us offers you many funny moments with Laurel and Hardy.
PARDON US, filmed in 1930 then edited down and released in 1931, is Laurel
and Hardy's first feature-length comedy. In it, they are set to jail after
Stan sells some illegal brew to a policeman ("Well, I couldn't help it-I
thought he was a streetcar conductor!"). The whole film is pretty funny.
There isn't much story, but a series of funny things that happen to the
in jail. The finale has Stan and Ollie foiling a jailbreak. Highlights of
the film include a great "welcoming" scene with extremely tolerant warden
Wilfred Lucas, Laurel and Hardy posing as African American sharecroppers
(with Stan shoving entire plants of cotton into his bag while Hardy
picks each piece of cotton with care), and a hilarious schoolroom scene
teacher James Finlayson!
Not up to the standard of SONS OF THE DESERT or WAY OUT WEST, but still
funny. Try and get the complete 65-minute version that was on video in the
PARDON US (Hal Roach/MGM, 1931), directed by James Parrott, introduces
the team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy to feature length comedy.
Having been paired in comedy shorts since their initial teaming in
1927, and continuing through 1935, Laurel and Hardy's participation in
features began with guest spots in musicals "The Hollywood Revue"
(1929) and "The Rogue Song" (1930). Working in shorts with a feature
per year before promoted directly to features by 1936, for PARDON US, a
parody on prison films that were the stir of the time, was in fact a
spoof on MGM's own success of THE BIG HOUSE (1930) starring Chester
Morris and Wallace Beery. Although a drama, Fox Studios accomplishment
in prison films followed with UP THE RIVER (1930) featuring Spencer
Tracy, Warren Hymer and a very young Humphrey Bogart. Being a comedy,
it lacked the humor PARDON US provided, mainly because the teaming of
Tracy and Hymer an attempt of copying the friendly rivals chemistry of
Victor McLaglen and Edmund Lowe of WHAT PRICE GLORY? (1926) fame, can't
compare to them nor Laurel and Hardy, nor did they ever try to be. Such
as it is, Laurel and Hardy's PARDON US is another fine mess they've
gotten themselves into, with fine results.
Opening title: "Mr. Hardy is a man of wonderful ideas ... so is Mr. Laurel, as long as he doesn't try to think." Set during the Prohibition era, Oliver has a get-rich-quick scheme about brewing beer. He tells his partner, Stanley, "whatever we can't drink, we can sell." Next scene finds the Laurel and Hardy handcuffed and escorted to prison after Stanley sells their home made beer to a policeman he mistakes for a streetcar conductor. After meeting with their warden (Wilfred Lucas) who gives them a lecture on prison life, they are then placed in a cell with four other convicts, with The Tiger (Walter Long) the leader and toughest of the bunch. Because Stanley's loose molar causes him to make a buzzing sound mistaken for what's commonly known as a "raspberry," which gets him into trouble, The Tiger takes it as a sign of courage, making Stanley his immediate pal. With Ollie wanting to get in good with the Tiger by doing the same thing, he isn't so fortunate. Going through the daily routine of prison life, attending school and placed into solitary confinement for unwittingly disrupting the class, Stan and Ollie later take part in a prison break, and hide themselves from the law by taking refuge in a Negro community disguised as black cotton pickers.
PARDON US may not be the best in the filmography of Laurel and Hardy, but delivers with its full quota of laughs. The classroom sequence with James Finlayson as the schoolmaster is a true highlight. School was never like this, especially with prisoners beginning their school day singing, "Good morning, dear teacher," along with the teacher asking students questions and getting the answers not found in text books. For the ten minute cotton field sequence where fugitives Stan and Ollie appear in black-face, they, along with the other Negro workers, do some singing while working in the fields to such tunes as "Hand Me Down," "Way Down in the Old Camp Ground," "Swing Along," "From Birmingham" and "Down at the Farm." Oliver Hardy, a gifted singer in his own right, solos during the evening's recreation period with "Lazy Moon." While there's no secondary love interest to bog down the plot, June Marlowe, as the warden's daughter, is the only female in the cast, with very little to do, probably a victim of heavy film editing. Other Laurel and Hardy stock players, aside from Walter Long's parody of Wallace Beery from THE BIG HOUSE, and the hilarious Jimmy Finlayson, include Charles Hall as The Dentist; and Stanley "Tiny" Sanford as one of the prison guards. It should be noted that in the French language version of PARDON US, Boris Karloff appears in place of Walter Long. Not that's something to see!
A neglected comedy gem that would have been virtually forgotten had it not been for television where Laurel and Hardy comedies were rediscovered by a new generation with each passing decade since the 1950s. By the 1980s, home video such as Nostalgia Merchant, and cable TV guaranteed further popularity for Stan and Ollie, where this and their short subjects and features were presented, including American Movie Classics (1994-1996), and Turner Classic Movies where PARDON US premiered April 1, 2005 as part of its April Fools festival.
While prints of PARDON US were shown in years past in slightly choppy 55 minute format, the TCM print offers better picture quality at 64 minutes. Regardless of its pros and cons, PARDON US demonstrated further that Laurel and hardy are capable of carrying on successfully in feature length comedies, especially with such masterpieces as SONS OF THE DESERT (1933), BABES IN TOYLAND (1934) and WAY OUT WEST (1937) into their not so distant future. (**1/2)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story goes that Hal Roach had to build his own prison set after
negotiations with M.G.M. fell through to rent one of theirs, and
finding the cost prohibitive for a short he ordered the movie expanded
to feature length.
I don't know if this story has been confirmed, but if true it would explain the lack of continuity in certain scenes, and the musical numbers used to pad out the running time.
But for all that there's some wonderful stuff in here. Great gag of Stan and Ollie planning to sell bootleg hooch; the next cut has them being marched straight into prison. Wonderful check-in gags and the mugshot scene is hysterical "If they come out good can I have a copy?" says Stan.
But the best scene for me is the classroom set piece with Jimmy Finn. This had me convulsed with laughter. Asked to name a comet, which has previously been described as a star with a tail on it, Stan answers Rin Tin Tin! In the second half the standard slips slightly, and Stan and Ollie in black-face is not exactly PC these days. However it was not meant to be racist, and Ollie gets to sing "Lazy Moon", which is fine.
Pardon Us is perhaps lacking the cohesive plots of some of the boys' later films - compare this to Sons of The Desert, for example. But for the most part it's an enjoyable film, and worth seeing.
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