Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

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Chris Seguin

Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Chris Seguin » Thu Oct 27, 2011 5:34 pm

It hasn’t had much discussion here, but the new 10-disc Laurel & Hardy: Essential Collection came out this week. From what I’ve seen so far, Dick Bann, Vivendi, RHI, and everyone involved have done a masterful job – going above and beyond to deliver EXACTLY what U.S. Laurel & Hardy fans have been demanding for the past dozen years.

I received mine last night, and spent about two hours on it. First, let me get this out of the way: A lot of people were carping about the booklet-like packaging, but I think it's fantastic, and I don't have a single problem with the cardboard sleeves. The discs sit loosely in and slip out easily without a scratch or scuff (despite dire amazon warnings) -- but if people want to put the discs in jewel cases or binders, feel free!

For no particular reason I focused on Disc 2 -- watching ANOTHER FINE MESS, BRATS (with original 1930 soundtrack) and TIEMBLA Y TITUBEA (“Below Zero” in Spanish). All looked absolutely fantastic, zero complaints from me. (Is there a chance something was overscanned or cropped, or could be a bit brighter? I guess...but I honestly couldn’t care less.) ANOTHER FINE MESS has two separate commentary tracks, one by Richard Bann alone and one by Mr. Bann and Piet Schruders. (I also noticed that HOG WILD has two separate commentary tracks by Bann and Richard Correll.) BRATS only has the 1937 reissue titles -- unlike the UK disc (which I believe has the original 1930 titlecards + the introductory "Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy..." titles) -- I assume this is so that there's only two distinct audio tracks, vs. two full video versions. (Same with PERFECT DAY's inclusion of the newly-found original 1929 soundtrack, which I took a quick glance at.)

Having English language subtitles on the Spanish films (as per the Spanish DVD of PARDON US) is a huge boon, and made watching TIEMBLA a lot more fun. No matter how familiar you are with the English versions, the Spanish ones are a bit of a challenge without subs.

Scanning through the other discs, some stray thoughts....

Compression is not an issue so far...not a trace of bitmapping, blur, or any of the usual complaints.

TREE IN A TEST TUBE is apparently from Mr. Bann's own collection. It's complete, and hugely superior (in terms of transfer) compared to Scott MacGillivray's copy on the Fox DVD (Scott's print itself is fantastic, it was the lousy transfer that killed it).

The "Tribute" interviews run about 40 minutes, lots of Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Chuck McCann and Tim Conway -- very old men. But Jerry is always fascinating to watch; his stranger-than-fiction approach to the Laurel & Hardy story would make a helluva story.

Everything I've seen so far has the MGM lion at the beginning (except, of course, CHUMP and SAPS)

The print of the 42-minute CHUMP looks particularly good -- maybe because the pre-print rarely used to create copies over the years? I’ve seen it before but this should prove to be an interesting exercise in comparing it to the familiar version – it’s really edited to the bone, far less leisurely than the feature.

PARDON US is, unfortunately, the re-created extended version (using the fire sequence from DE BOTE) that's on the European discs. (Okay, so that’s my only complaint – but it’s called the “Essential Collection”, not the “Perfect Collection”.) I had hoped for the extended version that was used as the basis for the colorized version on the UK set, which doesn’t cobble in the re-dubbed Spanish sequences. And I still wish they included the original edit -- why two versions of CHUMP, but not PARDON US? Ah well.

Oh, and this: the packaging doesn't note which films have commentaries...so you have to scan through the disc menus. Discs #1 and #9 don't have commentaries; WAY OUT WEST has two full-length commentaries by Bann and Randy Skretvedt. Apparently, SONS OF THE DESERT has two tracks, including one by comedians Chuck McCann and Tim Conway.

Long story short – buy it, watch it, love it. Repeat.

Chris

Gary Johnson
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Re: Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Gary Johnson » Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:53 am

I thought Richard Bann was only dealing with the UCLA restorations? He also is involved with this collection, also?

Isn't that a conflict of interest? "I object!" "On what grounds?" "Coffee grounds" "Over ruled" "Content...."

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Re: Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Jim Reid » Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:38 pm

Got mine today. Beautiful stuff. I'm thrilled to have this set! Since I have most of the films in 16mm I've seen them all a number of times, so my first move was to listen to all the commentaries. Only listened to Hog Wild so far. I'm really enjoying this.

Chris Seguin

Re: Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Chris Seguin » Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:16 pm

Gary; yep, Richard was involved with the set from the very beginning, and seems to have done everything possible to deliver a top-notch product. I remember discussing it with him over 2 years ago! Chris

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Re: Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Joe Migliore » Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:18 pm

Thanks for posting that information, Chris; it's making me hungrier. My set actually arrived, but I'm forbidden to open it until Christmas morning. It's going to be a long couple of months.

Chris Seguin

Re: Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Chris Seguin » Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:09 am

Joe, how could somebody be so cruel as to make you wait two months to open this set? So much could happen between now and Christmas -- two guys selling Christmas trees could destroy your house. Or the package could actually contain somebody breaking into your house to steal the mortgage to Mother Peep's shoe!
Chris

Joe Migliore
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Re: Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Postby Joe Migliore » Tue Nov 01, 2011 7:55 pm

I've got this all figured out: If I catch anyone breaking out of the package to procure the mortgage to Mother Peep's shoe, they will have to perform "The Barber Of Seville" in my opera house, or beg for coins on the street.


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