To my very pleasant surprise, this is not the usual DVD repackaging of public-domain Laurel & Hardy material. It's really the very obscure 1968 compilation feature THE BEST OF LAUREL AND HARDY, compiled by James L. Wolcott using 1930s footage licensed from producer Hal Roach. This new Legend Films DVD offers the film in a pleasantly colorized version as well as in black-and-white. There is no narration or original musical score, the clips are not identified by film title, and there is no attempt to bridge them together; each sequence stands as a separate comic episode, with the original musical underscoring intact.
There are 11 Laurel & Hardy comedies represented, usually in lengthy excerpts. In order of appearance:
NIGHT OWLS features the boys as "cat" burglars (who make meowing sounds!). In BELOW ZERO they're street musicians who offend everybody, including Amazonian Blanche Payson, who looks meaner in color with her thin, grim mouth! A quick clip from ONE GOOD TURN has them trying to sell their old Model T for $100. THE LIVE GHOST has Stan and Ollie hired to shanghai a crew for a seagoing skipper. PARDON US, the team's first feature film, is represented by the opening sequence, the "dentist's office" scene, and the climactic jailbreak in the last reel. (This last sequence reads very well in color, with the added tints distinguishing what had been a drab monochrome cast.) LAUGHING GRAVY involves Stan and Ollie trying to protect their dog during a snowstorm. BE BIG! picks up in the middle of the original subject, concentrating on Ollie trying to take off his too-tight leather boots. COUNTY HOSPITAL is seen in its first reel, with Stan ruining convalescent Ollie's hospital stay. OUR WIFE has Mr. Hardy trying to elope (a tapestry visible in the doorway is carefully colored). The "telephone" sequence from THEIR FIRST MISTAKE is shown, ending with Mae Busch angrily chasing the boys away. The final sequence is an intelligently compressed version of the feature OUR RELATIONS, with Stan and Ollie appearing as themselves and their seafaring, good-time twin brothers. This compilation ends as OUR RELATIONS ends: the picture fades and the vintage-1936 end title appears.
Legend's color palette in this one is subtler and more realistic than the garish colors seen in Legend's Three Stooges DVDs of 2005. Careful attention was paid to the color (Stan wears a brown suit in the first sequence only; for the rest of the movie he's got the authentic gray flannel suit.)
Bonus features, all in black-and-white, include coming-attractions trailers for THE DANCING MASTERS (in a superb print, even better than the one included in 20th Century-Fox's own DVD release) and A CHUMP AT OXFORD, as well as Laurel & Hardy's only appearance on live television in the "This Is Your Life" biography program. Print quality of "This Is Your Life" seen in this DVD is fair to middling; casual fans will appreciate its inclusion here but dyed-in-the-wool L & H admirers can find an upgrade sold elsewhere on the Amazon site.
Very few Laurel & Hardy buffs have seen THE BEST OF LAUREL AND HARDY, and the new colorized DVD adds even more novelty value. At 84 minutes, it makes a nice sampler of Laurel & Hardy's brand of visual comedy, and it's entirely suitable for the whole family. Hats off to Legend for finding an excellent print of this "lost" feature, and for making it available in such an enjoyable, viewer-friendly form.