Habeas Corpus (1928)
User ReviewsReview this title
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.
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 *****
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.
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.
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.
** 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.
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
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.
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.
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.