Jay Ward, the creator of Bullwinkle, has earned my undying respect for proving that intelligent scripts plus bad animation will make a better cartoon than superb animation with bad scripts. In 1967, Ward cobbled together a feature-length compilation of clips from various Laurel & Hardy movies, which was released by Hal Roach Jnr (son of Laurel & Hardy's original producer) as 'The Crazy World of Laurel & Hardy'. I'm a fan of Stan and Ollie, and I'm also a fan of Jay Ward, but this movie is nothing to cheer about. Jay Ward and co-producer Roach appear to have created this thing purely to make a few bucks off the kiddie trade. It doesn't really work as entertainment, and it certainly doesn't tell us anything useful about Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy.
In the 1960s, Robert Youngson enjoyed a great deal of success with several feature-length compilations of silent-film footage. 'The Crazy World of Laurel & Hardy' looks suspiciously like a cynical attempt to cash in on Youngson's success. The difference is that Robert Youngson's compilation films contained rare silent-film footage which we weren't likely to see anyplace else, and Youngson's wisecracking narration managed to include some genuinely informative content about the actors in his retrospectives. Jay Ward's movie tells us nothing at all about Laurel & Hardy, and it consists only of footage from the most widely-seen Laurel & Hardy films. There is NOTHING here from the silent films Stan and Ollie made for the Hal Roach studio, even though some of their best work was done during that period. There is NOTHING here from the films which Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made separately from each other. There is nothing here from Laurel & Hardy's 20th Century-Fox period (although admittedly those were their worst films). There's nothing here from 'Robinson Crusoeland', their last and most unusual film which they made in Europe. No; all we get here is an unimaginative sampling of the most obvious excerpts from a dozen of the sound films Laurel & Hardy made for Hal Roach Senior. Instead of sponsoring this feature-length compilation, Roach Junior would have done better merely to re-release a couple of his dad's Laurel & Hardy features, or perhaps a selection of their short films. Even worse: Hal Roach Senior and Junior were the only two people who had access to Laurel & Hardy's out-take footage, yet none of that material is included here.
Worst of all: 'The Crazy World of Laurel & Hardy' has no structure, no theme, no pace. There's no attempt to arrange the film clips by subject nor theme nor any other category. Ward could have done some interesting things here, such as presenting the gradual development of Stan & Ollie's onscreen characters, or showing how Laurel & Hardy's 1935 short 'Tit for Tat' was a direct sequel to 'Them Thar Hills', with the same supporting cast. Ward could have spotlighted the contributions of some of Stan & Ollie's supporting players, such as James Finlayson and Mae Busch. But instead of any coherent overview of Laurel & Hardy's movies, we just see a few random minutes from one of their films, a few minutes from another, and so forth. The compilation doesn't build to any sort of climax nor payoff, and the clips aren't arranged in any logical sequence. Consequently, some of Laurel & Hardy's funniest jokes lose most of their punch. For example, we get the weird sight gag from 'Busy Bodies' (1933) in which Stan pulls on Ollie's head until Ollie's neck stretches to bizarre lengths. In 'Busy Bodies' this was an effective gag because the jokes leading up to it prepared us for this departure from reality. Here in this compilation film, there's no proper preparation for the gag and so it merely frightens children ... who appear to have been the intended audience for 'The Crazy World of Laurel & Hardy'.
Anyone who thinks this compilation film is a 'Greatest Hits' of Laurel & Hardy will be disappointed. Fans of Stan & Ollie should skip this clip-job and watch a few Laurel & Hardy shorts instead, or any of their features. This movie is a blot on the otherwise impressive credentials of the great Jay Ward. I'll rate 'The Crazy World of Laurel & Hardy' one point out of 10.
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