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"Professor Padilla expected to startle the medical world with his new theory - that the human brain has a level surface - in some instances, practically flat"
gierenstein15 June 2001
By 1928 Laurel & Hardy had finally fully developed their relationship and character traits and already delivered some silent classics -"Battle Of The Century", "Two Tars", etc. Time to explore a new genre -the horror-comedy. While "Habeas Corpus" may not be as memorable as the films mentioned above, it's still interesting to see this tried and trust formula delivered by the boys in their own way. There are no particular brilliant or original gags but I really enjoy the atmosphere - virtually everything of the film was shot at night at a local cemetery, assuring that there's really a "spooky graveyard" feeling in this two reeler.
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Habeas Corpus is a pretty funny scare comedy from Laurel & Hardy
tavm4 August 2011
When I first read about this Laurel & Hardy comedy in Randy Skretvedt's book "Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies", it revealed that it was the first to have music and sound effects on disc, courtesy of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Skretvedt also mentioned that that disc was lost though according to this site, it's now been found. Maybe that music and sound effects I heard on the Hulu print as linked from IMDb were indeed from that disc. If that was it, then it was a pretty good choice to use for this film especially when what would become the theme for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" was used. Okay, Stan & Ollie happen to stop at a house in which the owner there (Richard Carle) offers $500 if they dig up a dead body for him. They accept though Stan gets scared when he seems to have to do all the work. I'll stop there and just say this was quite a funny scare comedy though the unfilmed or deleted scenes Skretvedt mentions in his book might have made it even more funny. Certainly the sound effects contribute mightily to the atmosphere though I did notice some spots when they weren't used that could've used them. Besides Carle-who has an amusing bit concerning his pocket and what he feeds into it-there's also Charley Rogers as a butler/detective that adds immensely to the fun. So on that note, Habeas Corpus is another worthy L & H comedy.
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Early vintage Laurel & Hardy
Bob Pr.1 November 2010
I don't understand the occasional low ratings I've read by viewers of this great '20s silent film.

It's early vintage Laurel & Hardy with a very good demonstration of most aspects of their particular brand of physical humor and emotional reactions to each other and their situations.

Done in 1928 in the Hal Roach studio, a silent film historian said it's the beginning, in a sense--a preview, or first chapter, of what was to become a great series of longer comedy escapades.

One can only downgrade this film by judging it against Laurel & Hardy's other, later, longer and more fully developed films.
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Turtles in the Dark; aka Habeas Corpus
Andy (film-critic)18 November 2009
Tonight, it was proved – comedy never dies. Nearly 81 years ago a comedy duo by the name of Laurel and Hardy broke through the sound barrier (quite literally) to bring humor, a dazzling array of both slapstick and intelligent, to the masses. Could today's audiences still laugh at what simple jokes these two men brought to the screen? With a group of friends we put that theory to the ground, and surprisingly our level of entertainment combined with humor was not disappointed. After aging gracefully over eight decades, Laurel and Hardy continue to combine random, interesting scenarios with engaging, well-planned humor. Add to this the fact that "Habeas Corpus" was their first sound film; i.e. sound effects not speaking – yet continued to make our audience laugh hysterically. Their ability to take small gestures, and expand them into laugh-out-loud situations, using merely their facial expressions and their body language would put some modern comedians to shame. Yet, their style didn't seem dated. In one scene in "Habeas Corpus", our duo watches as a man puts his ashes from his cigarette into his pocket. Each time he does this, the camera pans to Laurel and Hardy, as they make these exclusive expressions of confusion. Through just their eyes, they are able to convey this level of humor which had our virgin Laurel and Hardy group in stitches.

For 20 minutes, this short film kept us entertained. The level of the humor, the fact that what they were doing seemed original for the time made us question what modern comedians are doing today. Laurel and Hardy are still present in today's group of comedians. See John Candy or Chris Farley within Hardy, or even Rowan Atkinson's work influenced from Laurel. These guys were at the top of their game in the late 20s and beyond, and what makes this impressive is that they have not fallen from their trade. "Habeas Corpus" is a prime example of this. Their first sound film, it pits the two as guys who need to dig up a body for a scientist for money. As they attempt to get the body, everything imaginable occurs. The body is second nature to actually getting to the grave site. Everything they do, from jumping up poles, to continually trying to get over a troublesome wall, to fighting Laurel's fears of turtles. Everything will make you laugh out loud, like it was 1928.

Overall, I loved this short. This reviewer could have watched another hour and half of Laurel and Hardy's shenanigans with this mad scientist, but twenty minutes was perfect. It left you wanting more and a strong desire to have multiple repeat viewings. It ended on such a high note that the laughter filled the room with a group of friends. This was a delight – a pure joy to experience. A modern day "Tom and Jerry" for a more intelligent and mature audience.

Grade: ***** out of *****
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Not Burke and Hare
BJJManchester27 October 2005
Laurel and Hardy's earliest foray into Horror comedy is by no means their best,with a rather awkward opening scene with a mad doctor(Richard Carle,his only known appearance with L & H)which leads to the boys' attempted grave-robbing.There's plenty of opportunities for much comic panic here,some of which is very funny but is occasionally over-prolonged and a trifle predictable.The scenes in the graveyard recall the previous year's DO DETECTIVES THINK(1927)which didn't take up as much running time as it does here.It is sometimes thanks to Stan and Ollie's sheer and unparallelled comic brilliance that such potentially obvious gags are made fresh and inventive;for many years,a synchronised soundtrack with music and sound effects to accompany the film was thought to be lost,but has turned up in recent years and is now available on DVD.The only L&H silent now known to have lost it's music and effects recording is WE FAW DOWN,made several months after HABEAS CORPUS.
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Original 1928 Vitaphone music and effects disks improve this short.
ralph celentano4 December 2007
Habeas Corpus has been described as a routine slapstick not typical Laurel and Hardy comedy. With the dawn of sound, the Hal Roach team must have put some thought on creating a Vitaphone music and effects disks to accompany this 1928 short. When viewed this way, it brings the film new life and is far from typical. The spooky hand clapping scene in the graveyard is a prime example geared toward the novel experimental sound medium. I have seen this film three different ways: Silent, new track added for the British DVD, and the original Vitaphone soundtrack on an out of print US DVD. In my opinion, the Vitaphone version is the best way to see this short. NOTE: One of the music cues "Dance of the Marionettes" later became Alfred Hitchcock's TV theme.
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Second half makes it work
rbverhoef10 November 2003
A professor needs a body to experiment on and Laurel & Hardy are the persons to get that body from the graveyard. The police knows what they are about to do and tries to stop that.

This short is a little boring in the first half, although there are some nice moments with white paint. The second half is better and starts with some very funny scenes involving a wall Laurel & Hardy have to climb. That wall is the main object in another great scene a little later. Because of the second half this is a very good one.
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"I think I can use you boys".
classicsoncall8 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
According to Turner Classic Movie historian Ben Mankiewicz, this was the first Laurel and Hardy film short to use synchronized music and sound effects. Most of it takes place in a cemetery if you can believe that, after the boys agree to Professor Padilla's (Richard Carle) offer of five hundred dollars to bring him back a dead body! Apparently the professor had a theory that the human brain has a level surface, practically flat!, and he wants to test that out. Hmm.

I've seen a fair number of Laurel and Hardy's silent pictures and never thought about it before, but watching them go through their routines here, I couldn't help but think how their own distinctive voices were just perfect for their characters when they got around to talking films. Like icing on a cake one might say.

Obviously the graveyard scenario offers many opportunities to explore comedy horror in the way of black cats, flying bats and white sheeted ghosts and they're all used here to wonderful comic effect. With the ton of silent films both comedians made prior to 1928, I don't know if this is the first one to use the theme, but having recently watched "The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case" (1930) I can state that the idea was used again there, along with the traveling lamp gimmick, this time on the back of a turtle.

Interestingly, the boys never do come up with a corpse for the good professor. Lawman Ledoux (Charley Rogers), assigned to follow them to thwart the grave robbing scheme is tripped up into a huge puddle as the boys scatter. It's a bit of an abrupt ending, but with Laurel and Hardy, it doesn't really matter.
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Bow & Fiddle, Meticulously Playing Against Each Other In What Is Essentially A Horror Movie Spoof.*
John T. Ryan16 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
AS THE TRAIL to a Laurel & Hardy team as we remember it continues on its way, we are confronted with a sojourn into the macabre; or at least into the parody of that sort of story. The story is thread bare, not taking on anything that could be considered in any way to be superfluous.

THE BOYS SHOW up at the doorstep of the obviously prototypical Mad Scientist; innocently looking for some honest employment. Following what was rapidly becoming their trademark, our heroes methodically milk every intricacy of their meeting with this man,their new found benefactor.

THE BY THEN trademark of the Laurel & Hardy team's comedies, the reacting and re-reacting of both members to their encounters with everyone and everything, was becoming an expected and integral part of what their ever growing audiences were expecting. It was this metamorphosis of slowing things down that brought Stan Laurel up to the pinnacle of success that had the whole world following their (mis)adventures in each succeeding comedy short.

PRIOR TO THEIR accidental teaming as a part of the Hal Roach All-Stars, they had both been very active and busy in making films. Hardy had been an all around and multifaceted character actor, who wasn't necessarily limited to comic portrayals; having contributed portrayals of "the Bad Guy" in many a movie. His fullness of physique and highly animated face readily lent themselves to villainous characterizations; such as that in REX KING OF THE WILD HORSES.

LAUREL ON THE other hand had worked for many a company and split time between being before the camera and writing, devising gags and, ultimately, directing. We have found his work to be pleasant, highly energetic and always funny. But, as skillful as Laurel was, there was little to distinguish his screen persona from some of the others around;such as Charley Chase, Larry Semon and even the early Harold Lloyd.**

ONCE THE TWO were joined, and were playing together with such success, they were both transformed into that most unique of all comedy teams. After all, where else could you have to pose such questions as: "Who's the straight man and who's the stooge?"

OUR ONLY ANSWER would be both of them to each part of that last interrogative sentence. HABEOUS CORPUS marks a big step by the two of them in moving up the comedic ladder. Along with Writer/Director, Mr. Leo McCarey, they would be taking things a great distance ahead in the following year with shorts such as YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN, THEIR PURPLE MOMENT, DOUBLE WHOOPEE and BIG BUSINESS (which epitomized the gag style of has come to be called, "Reciprocal Destruction."

NOTE: * Okay, we concede the point. The term "Horror Movie" hadn't come into usage until James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN )Universal, 1931). But the point is well taken, nonetheless!

NOTE: ** Stan Laurel, himself, later admitted this and credited both McCarey and Hardy for solidifying his spot in our hearts forever.
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Not a Classic But Some Nice Laughs
Michael_Elliott9 March 2016
Habeas Corpus (1928)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy knock on the door of a doctor hoping for a piece of bread but instead he offers them five hundred dollars if they'll steal a body for him from the local cemetery. The boys agree to take the offer but their nerves start to play against them.

HABEAS CORPUS isn't the greatest Laurel and Hardy film you'll ever watch but there are enough funny moments to make it worth viewing. I think the highlights of the film deals with Hardy trying to get Laurel over the wall but when he goes to help the dimwitted Laurel keeps forgetting to actually jump. There's another funny gag dealing with some wet paint that works quite nicely. The stuff inside the cemetery isn't quite as funny as you'd hope for but there's no doubt that fans will still want to watch this one.
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They buried somebody too soon!
Spikeopath3 September 2015
Starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Habeas Corpus is directed by James Parrott and photographed by Len Powers. Plot finds Stan and Ollie as a couple of drifters short of cash who agree to do a bit of grave robbing to earn themselves $500, courtesy of the mad professor Padilla (Richard Carle). But the cemetery at night is not a fun place to be...

Not so much Burke & Hare, more like Berk & Berk!

Not a prime short from the boys but lots to enjoy. The frenetic organ swirls as Stan & Ollie prat about down at the cemetery. After the tone is set via a fun escapade with wet paint, the spooky shenanigans begin - which constitutes the boys scaring each other even without outside influences!

There's the usual visual ticks, the various looks at the camera, which are supplemented by some animal participation (including the world's fastest cat and a fun tortoise). An extended sequence of them trying to get over the wall of the cemetery is overplayed, but after an Ollie wrecking ball moment and a quite brilliant and hilarious body bag sequence of events, this short is back on track and showing why they would become legends of cinema. 7/10
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Not enough slapstick and humor present.
Boba_Fett113821 February 2006
This silent Laurel & Hardy short is a very forgettable one. It has very little slapstick and comedy present in the movie, which doesn't make this movie a very entertaining one but rather a disappointing one.

It more gets a bit of an horror movie at times, rather than a comedy. But of course the presence of Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy is reason enough to find this movie still watchable. I don't think I'll be ever able to rate a Laurel & Hardy movie any lower than a 6 out of 10. The chemistry and timing of those two is absolutely phenomenal to watch, no matter how bad and forgettable the rest of the movie is.

Only recommendable to the true fans of Laurel & Hardy I guess.


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While far from funny, it's still worth a peek
MartinHafer6 May 2008
This Laurel and Hardy silent film has a very, very slim plot--with almost the entire film taking place at a cemetery. The film begins with a truly balmy professor paying Stan and Ollie to do a bit of grave robbing (an odd plot idea, I know). So the greedy boys head to the grave yard and spend most of the film being scared out of their wits over a drunk who has gotten wrapped up in a sheet. While this is all very contrived, the worst part of this is that it took Stan and Ollie almost half the film to figure a way into the cemetery. Some of this was very funny (such as when Ollie finally tried climbing the wall), but most of it was just tedious and overplayed. While this is far from funny and lacking the number of laughs of most of their shorts, the film is still worth a peek because even when sub-par, the team can still be very funny.
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Body snatchers
GUENOT PHILIPPE12 February 2017
Before Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, in Robert Wise's BODY SNATCHER and also other features like John Gilling's FLESH AND THE FIENDS or Freddie Francis'BURKE AND HARE, I am surprised to see that topic of grave robbers in order to serve rogue medical experiments was used by Laurel and Hardy, in of course the most funniest way. What could I say more? The cemetery setting is also a very easy way to bring scary elements in a comedy scheme and show many gags to the audiences. I am not a Laurel and hardy specialist however but this short film seems pretty good for me, although I have not seen the other ones.

After all those decades and not only years, that is still amusing, entertaining at the most, even for youngest audiences.

But all Laurel and Hardy stuff is not so good.
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Stan/Ollie spooky ordeal
Warning: Spoilers
The title "Habeas Corpus" already say what this little film is about. It is not about law, the constitution or politics, but about corpses at a graveyard. Laurel & Hardy star in this 20-minute black-and-white film that is almost 90 years old already. Most of the action takes place at a cemetery, but it is all comedy nonetheless, no horror, even if there are some spooky moments and people back then were probably easier to scare and may have found it slightly creepy. But by today's standards, it is not a scary film. Sadly, it is also not a good film. Stan & Ollie have been a lot funnier in other works, also in other works from their early short film phase. A bit disappointing as the writer/director team were very experienced with the material and worked on many other films from these two as well. Overall, I do not recommend this one. Watch something else from this hilarious duo instead.
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Habeus Corpus
Jackson Booth-Millard26 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the most famous comedy duo in history, and deservedly so, so I am happy to see any of their films. Professor Padilla (Richard Carle) wants to startle people with his new medical theory, but he needs a human body in order to do so (maybe like Frankenstein). Then Stan and Ollie comes knocking at the door asking some for some buttered, and the Professor offers them $500 if they go and get a body from the graveyard. Posing as the butler, police officer Ledoux (Charley Rogers) his department to come and take the Professor away, and while they do that he is going to deal with the boys himself. The boys are walking to the graveyard carrying a lamp, a shovel and a body bag, Stan does question whether the Professor is cuckoo, Ollie assures him he is just as sane as them. To check where they are Ollie climbs a near white pole all the way to the top, that is when he is Stan notice that the pole is covered in wet paint, so Ollie is covered all the way down the middle. The policeman is ready and waiting for the boys with a white sheet in the graveyard, and Stan is first to be scared out by a sneeze, but shakily goes back to start digging. The graveyard guard spots Stan digging, but is tripped over and scared away, along with Stan, by the policeman in his white sheet. The boys run away, and going back to the gate find it has been locked by the guard, so they try to find a way to hop over the wall. Ollie tries getting Stan to leap with his foot in his hands, and standing on his back, and after some failed attempts Stan finally gets over and falls into an open grave. Stan puts his lamp down on a tortoise and continues digging a grave, while Ollie looking over sees the moving lamp and screams, and Stan gets spooked by some echoing of his clap. Ollie gets scared seeing a cat run past him, and then gets smacked in the face by the shovel when Stan tries to hit a bat flying in his face. The tortoise and lamp reach the policeman crouching down, and the heat gets his backside caught on fire, and when he dashes past Stan he is so scared he leaps over the wall. Ollie decides to go over the wall himself on Stan's back, but instead he collapses the wall completely, and hurts his foot a little. Taking his shoe and sock off his slightly hurt foot, Stan continues digging and notices a wiggling toe under the near pile of earth, of its Ollie's, so runs out in pain getting a smack of the shovel. Stan going back gets scared again by the policeman holding up his white sheet, but Ollie goes in and manages to get the policeman's body, after he tumbled into the open grave. While walking, the policeman manages to tear his legs out of the bag, concerning Stan, and he also gets his hands out to scare Ollie taking his hat off. Ollie and the policeman in the bag run into a deep puddle, and after Ollie pops out of the water, the boys are running all over the place seeing the body under the bag crawling out. Filled with good slapstick and all classic comedy you want from a black and white silent film, it may slightly off tune music, but it is an enjoyable film. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were number 7 on The Comedians' Comedian. Worth watching!
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Amusing Cemetery Spook Short.
Robert J. Maxwell13 November 2011
This was one of the usual two-reel silent shorts that ran about twenty minutes back in the 1920s. It's reasonably effective, with one or two good laughs.

Laurel and Hardy are sent by a goofy professor to dig up a body at the graveyard, to be used in an experiment. The police, knowing of the plan, have an officer dressed in a white sheet waiting for them.

I think the best gag comes when the boys are trying to climb over the cemetery wall. Hardy cups his palms but Laurel only seems to bounce up and down on them. They try various other ways to get Laurel over the wall and they all fail. Finally, Hardy tells Laurel to bend over. Hardy will make a running jump and leap over the barrier. He doesn't make it. He smashes into the thick brick wall -- and all the way through it. Hardy wasn't too fond of jokes about his weight and that seems to make the gag a little funnier.

Otherwise, it's good but hardly incomparable.
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