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As recently suggested by others, THE BIG NOISE has suffered in
reputation for years, usually sight unseen. As a lifelong L & H fan, I
finally saw it for the first time via the new Fox set (a very well done
package), and it is more than acceptable a part of L&H's legacy. Of
course it can't match their heyday, but among the Fox films it is much
more Stan & Ollie's show than the initial Fox entries. The whimsical
fadeout is by far one of the most delightful moments of their entire
career, which is something.
Give this film some slack, and you'll have a good enough time with it. I'm glad Fox has made this one available.
Here it is - the film that had the worst reputation for many years, due
to several books about films in general and Laurel & Hardy films in
particular that labeled it the team's "worst ever." Many fans who never
had an opportunity to view the film took those books at their word...
until they actually saw the film. Now they realize that not only is
"The Big Noise" one of the best of the later films the team did for the
big studios like MGM and in this case, 20th Century Fox (several of
which admittedly were not among the best due to studio interference and
such), but it also compares favorably to many of the classic films done
during the team's golden years at the Hal Roach Studios (even besting a
few of those gems, if you ask me).
Find out for yourself. This film is now available on DVD as part of a 3-disc set that also includes two other Fox L&H features, "Great Guns" (their first for Fox, and one I dislike - it tries to take square Laurel & Hardy pegs and force them through round Abbott & Costello holes, in my opinion) and "Jitterbugs" (a slightly-above average film that shows how the team could have continued their careers as character actors).
"The Big Noise" has a loopy charm that will just carry you away if you let it. It is filled with reprises of some classic L&H routines from yesterday (some think that's desperation, but I see it as an homage) and an absurd, farcical plot. This is a film that I had not seen in about 25-30 years, but had vivid memories of. When my Sons of the Desert tent (the Laurel & Hardy aficionado club) ran the film at one of our meetings, I was shocked: my memories were absolutely right on target! "The Big Noise" had stuck with me for many years. And rightfully so. One area in which it improves on a lot of the other '40s L&H films that it featured some supporting characters who were supposed to be comical, just like in the Roach films.
I will forever be baffled over this film's bad reputation. If you stack it up against some of the other '40s L&H films, at least the boys are IN the action-- they're not taking a back seat. They're also not portrayed so much as doddering old fools ("Air Raid Wardens," "A-Haunting We Will Go") or servants ("Nothing But Trouble"). They are quite close to their Roach persona's, in my opinion. The only compromise seems to be less slapstick, but that is in obvious deference to their advance ages, it seems-- I think it's okay to have a "pill as a meal" gag instead of Ollie falling in the mud since they're older here. Also, it's just absolutely crazy (in a fun, entertaining way, in my opinion) that they happen to wind up parachuting over the water and somehow there's an enemy sub in it, but that's part of the loopy charm of this movie, and I feel it has one of the best closing shots of any of the "bizarre endings" Stan favored for a lot of the films. This is a really fun film that was perfect for the times in which it was made and still can produce laughs today.
So don't believe the (negative) hype - this is NOT the team's worst. Save those darts for "A-Haunting We Will Go" and "Nothing But Trouble!"
Another of the infamous "Fox Laurel & Hardy" latter comedies, and in
the running for one of the most enjoyable of the bunch in my book.
Here, the older but no less amusing duo are hired to guard a bomb
christened "The Big Noise" by its zany inventor. Some old tried and
true classic funny routines are trotted out and revamped, with
generally satisfactory results. Stan and Ollie seem like their old
selves again in this, thankfully getting more screen time together.
After enjoying this I just had to post a positive show of support and say that I think it's vastly underrated. This was echoed on the DVD's commentary track by author Randy Skretvedt, who actually apologized for trashing it once upon a time in his book entitled LAUREL AND HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES, and now admits that during the '70s and '80s, this was a rough film to see in good quality or in its entirety, and so a lot of critics relied only on memory and reputation. THE BIG NOISE has been one of the most unjustly maligned movies in history (Michael Medved even had the gall to list it among the "Worst Films Ever Made" in his dispensable GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS book). Luckily, the tide is presently turning for the better as moviegoers and Laurel and Hardy aficionados everywhere are finally giving the movie its due. *** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For years, I avoided seeing Stan and Ollie in THE BIG NOISE, after reading in book after book that the film was the worst they ever made, and without value. However, finally, begrudgingly, I saw it--not once, but twice--and with pleasure!!! Not only is it by far not the worst of their post-Hal Roach films (The two MGMs are far duller, and the first few Fox entries are buried under tiresome plots.), but it certainly compares favorably with their lesser Roach features (like SWISS MISS)and shorts (Are there any fans of BE BIG and THE LAUREL AND HARDY MURDER CASE out there?). Yeah, the Boys reprise quite a few old routines in this film (Screenwriter Scott Darling apparently mining their filmography mercilessly.), but then that wasn't uncommon at Roach either. I rather liked the wacky inventions like the compressed full course meal and the automated room. The supporting cast is bright with welcome players like Esther Howard, Phil van Zandt, and Arthur Space. I'll admit that the high-flying "patriotic" ending leaves this 21st Century film-goer cold. But any film that has so much leisurely L&H byplay (stuff like hat switching, stubborn door locks, and so many Hardy camera looks of exasperation)is simply no bomb, by any reasonable measure. I'll go so far as to say that--against conventional wisdom--it just might be my favorite of the (admittedly sorry)later Laurel and Hardys.
I don't know why this movie always gets such a bad rap. I think it is funnier than any of the other non Hal Roach films (this was a 20th Century Fox release.) It is considerably different than many of their other movies (no pies in the face, no cars sawed in two, and no vase smashing) because of ration issues during World War II. (Although it claims to have no destruction in it that's not entirely true because Ollie gets his pants ripped up in the hallway in one scene.) But you can definitely detect wartime feelings abounded during production. Indeed that's the story. Eccentric California Inventor has been driving the patent office in DC crazy with goofy prototypes. He finally may have struck a chord with a "blockbuster bomb that sounds like a popgun." DC is interested but they're not the only ones that are interested. Next door kniving neighbors who are mixed up with a cadre of gangsters are also eying the explosive to send to the Axis powers. In a telephone mix-up (purpetrated by the Inventors son, a very young Robert Blake) he is advised to guard the bomb with his life. The solution? Enter Laurel and Hardy. Two wannabe detectives working for a now vacant janitor office (all employees are on government business). With no options they accept the job to guard the bomb. The job is carried out in usual Laurel and Hardy fashion: first Ollie makes friends with a streetlight that has been freshly painted, then Stan wrecks havoc on an expensive painting, and the old codger father-in-law explains to Stan the dangers of his daughter who lives in the house. That's just the beginning... Some funny scenes to watch for- The light's out scene in the push button bedroom, the train scene, and the rigged poker game. Possibly the funniest moment in this movie comes when Stan is playing "Mairzy Doats" on the concertina accordion. One of the funniest scenes I've seen! This is a great movie, don't let others talk you out of seeing it.
This is one of Laurel & Hardy's later Twentieth Century-Fox films and it is not one of their best. However, it is an upbeat and fast-paced effort that shows signs that they put some effort into it. THE BIG NOISE has some good bits: the dinner with the inventor, the bunk bed scene in the train, and the constant threat of the bomb going off with Stan transporting it carelessly. The only part of this movie that seems weak is the Nazi segment and the scenes with a very annoying little kid. Other than that, this is recommended for all L&H fans, especially younger fans. 7 out of 10.
THE BIG NOISE has had an horrendous reputation with critics,film-goers
and L & H fans in the past,dismissed by various film scholars,writers
and journalists as "a groan","sublimely indifferent","sinking to a new
low",and even receiving an entry in Michael and Harry Medved's
notorious book,'THE FIFTY WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME'.The film is
certainly no classic,and is pretty poor when even compared to their
average efforts at the Hal Roach Studios,but for the standards of the L
& H wartime comedies,this is actually one of the better,more tolerable
films that were made,which isn't saying very much,though increasing
numbers are recognising that some of the contemptuous comments made
previously are somewhat unfair and out of proportion.
The story itself is rather thin,but one plus factor is that there is a decent concentration on Stan and Ollie here,unlike their previous efforts for 20th Century Fox,and scenes which are thankfully more in keeping with their characters;it is pleasing to see the Hardy camera look in many scenes,for example.This essential trait of Ollie's behaviour was non-existent in their previous Fox features(the otherwise banal MGM vehicle AIR RAID WARDENS at least had several authentic stares to the camera),but after several unsuitable drafts,writer Scott Darling apparently watched a few vintage L & H shorts,and began in earnest to mildly understand their established characterisations,reworking routines from such films as HABEUS CORPUS(this very utterance is actually spoken in the film),WRONG AGAIN,BERTH MARKS,OLIVER THE EIGHTH and TWICE TWO. Some of the insertions of these routines work surprisingly well,best of all the train upper berth sequence borrowed from BERTH MARKS.The original routine was over stretched and strained,mainly because this was only the team's second talkie,and restrictions on technology at the time(particularly sound editing)led to tedium and repetition.This routine works rather better in THE BIG NOISE,with not as much footage, improved pacing and the amusing addition of a genial drunk,played by Hollywood favourite inebriate Jack Norton;Tinseltown's other regular drunkard,Arthur Housman,had worked with L & H notably several times before,and would probably have been cast for this sequence had it not been for his premature death two years earlier.
That said,there is still too much straight,non-humorous exposition involving gangsters and would-be Nazi spies,an all too common problem in these post-Roach L & H features,and Bobby(later Robert)Blake is something of an irritation as the inventor's misbehaving son.But some of the support cast aren't bad at all,especially the elderly Robert Dudley and an amusing bit from Francis Ford.Several supporting players from their Hal Roach days also turn up;the brief appearance of motorcycle cop Edgar Dearing(memorable in their silent classic TWO TARS)is a welcome diversion;a previous occasional foil,Del Henderson,can also be briefly glimpsed at the end of the upper berth sequence. The eminent L & H expert and writer Randy Skretvedt has admitted on a commentary accompanying this film's recent DVD release that his previous highly negative opinions on THE BIG NOISE were somewhat wrong,and that it's nowhere near as bad as he originally thought,rating this only under THE BULLFIGHTERS as the best of their Fox-MGM wartime features.I more or less agree with him.
RATING:5 and a half out of 10.
I bought this in the mid 1990's on VHS because it wasn't on DVD at the store. I was just hungry for more of the boys films and had not read the critic's yet. It turned out that I was very surprised at the level of comedy as I was not expecting much since the 40s and on I had mostly been disappointed. I recommend this film though. Much better than Utopia, Jitterbugs, and a couple of the other later ones. This film and Nothing But Trouble were probably their last good comedies, IMO. Not as good as their vintage days, but still good and funny. You can't always go by reviews(which includes mine!) This film has more character-driven comedy than some other Fox films. Maybe the studio let them do their own thing a little more, which was what made them so great such as was Keaton's greatness too but was stifled by over-control. If you have seen their old films but ignored this one and Nothing But Trouble give these a try. I think you will be surprised. Steve
In the Medved Brothers' usually on target book, THE 50 WORST FILMS OF
ALL TIME, THE BIG NOISE is given a degree of prominence as the worst of
Laurel & Hardy's films. John McCabe dismissed it in his MR. LAUREL AND
MR. HARDY by saying the plot of the film can be described in one
sentence - the boys are assigned to deliver a bomb and do so. Yet a
number of people have also supported it as one of their cutest, if not
When L & H left Roach in 1941, they had planned to do a production of the Victor Herbert's THE RED MILL as their next movie after SAPS AT SEA. They probably were picking up on their success in operetta films (BABES IN TOYLAND, THE BOHEMIAN GIRL, THE DEVIL'S BROTHER, even SWISS MISS) as a sure fire way of showcasing their humor. I have often thought about this project. No doubt the roles of Kid Connor and Con Kidder that David Montgomery and Fred Stone had originated would have been redone by the screenplay writer (with advise from Stan) to fit the person-as of Stan and Ollie. But by 1941 the cycle of films in Hollywood which were based on operettas had slowly collapsed (the last major ones were Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald's BITTERSWEET, as well as Eddy and Rise Stevens' THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER). Shows based on current stage hits were more likely to be made into films (the next and last Eddy and MacDonald film would I MARRIED AN ANGEL, based on the Rodgers and Hart stage musical). It seems doubtful that any of the studios would have been willing to finance a production of a 1905 operetta hit, whose major big-time number was "In Old New York".
Yet that was what Stan was proposing (and Ollie would have supported him on that). William Everson has suggested that actually, by 1941, the boys were tired, and needed more time to rejuvenate their material. I end up feeling that this is true. The best of the later films, JITTERBUGS, has some nice moments (Hardy romancing Lee Patrick, and shepherding around Stan in drag as an old lady), and includes some rejuvenated material at the conclusion of the film from Alice Faye's movie, SALLY, IRENE AND MARY, but (as John McCabe suggested) it's plot does not make any sense (particularly as Bob Bailey's character, a major one in the plot, seems good natured one moment and opportunistic and crooked the next).
THE BIG NOISE does have a straightforward plot, tied in with the current war effort. Arthur Space is one of those screwy scientist/inventors who crop up in many comedies of the 1920s to 1930s. He has invented food pills that replaced full course meals, and has an impossible push button modern house (after the 1939 - 40 New York Worlds Fair "push button" future space saving homes become a perennial joke in comedies - and a weak one at that - see the Marx Brothers contemporary film THE BIG STORE and the ethnic children in the disappearing beds scene).
Space has, however, designed a new secret weapon - a highly powerful bomb. This is the "Big Noise" of the title. The government is testing it with the intention of using it against the Axis, but their agents are planning to steal it to use against us (shades of Lionel Atwill as Moriarty in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON). In need of guards for his weapons, Space hires L & H thinking they are detectives (they are janitors in a detective school).
In reality the interplay of L & H with Space, Robert Blake (then Bobbie Blake), Esther Howard (who shows a sexual interest in Hardy - quite unusual for him, and very unsettling to him), and the cast is actually quite good. The result is that the material, even if reused from earlier films (the bit from BERTH MARKS about changing in the upper berth of a train) is quite well done. And since the film is actually keeping a coherent story for a change (as opposed to JITTERBUGS) the film is more than just tolerable.
It is also nice to see that it did introduce one popular tune to movies: the tongue-twister tune, "Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and Little Lambs Eat Ivory", which is called "Maisey Doats" or "Maizy Doats" for short. Stan supposedly plays it on his accordion in the film.
A nice movie, possibly the boys' last good comedy.
When I saw this movie the first time, I was greatly disappointed, and
thought that the boys really had lost it. But after watching it again,
I realised this view was a bit unjustified.
The movie is about Laurel and Hardy taking a job at a private home as detectives, to protect a bomb (called "The Big Noise" - thus the title of the movie) from people wanting to steal the bombs, and sell it to foreign nations.
The big flaws that this movie has, are particularly the little kid of the house trying to tease and annoy the persons in it, particularly Stan & Ollie. This may sound like fun, but it truly isn't. And the only the kid really managed to annoy, was me. Also the scene of the woman of the house trying to seduce Ollie wasn't my thing (a scare attempt to enter some love in the movie?), and finally the nazi segment. This segment is particularly disappointing, because it shows a Japanese officer saying "Heil Hitler", and the Japanese did no such thing.
But apart from that, the movie has some good scenes. All scenes with Stan and Ollie at their room in the house are hilarious. For instance Stan's unpacking of the things, when the woman trying to temp Ollie sleepwalks with a knife into the room, when Ollie disappears inside the wall (don't ask) and the card playing. Amongst other noteworthy scenes, are the dinner scene at the house and the bunker scene in a train.
So, not a classic and with flaws. But still having some original and hilarious moments.
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