Audiences need a laugh today more than ever. With broadcast news agencies churning out a constant stream of negativity about the COVID-19 pandemic and everything happening in the political world, it’s tough to find something positive. Enter MVD Entertainment Group and its recently released Laurel & Hardy Blu-ray collection The Definitive Restorations. This four-disc collection gives audiences plenty of laughs throughout its overall presentation. Additionally, it ensures audiences’ engagement just as much as their entertainment. That is thanks to its extensive primary and secondary content. Each item will receive its own attention here. The set’s restoration rounds out its most important elements. Together with the set’s content, all three elements make this collection unquestionably one of the year’s top new family DVD/BD sets and a welcome watch for any viewer looking for an enjoyable way to pass that time indoors.
MVD Entertainment Group’s recently released Laurel & Hardy Blu-ray box set, The Definitive Restorations is a must have for classic movie and TV aficionados just as much as for the most devoted Laurel & Hardy fans. That is thanks in no small part to its featured primary content. The content in question is a deep dive into the legendary duo’s shorts, including the ultra rare short “The Battle of the Century.” The story centers on Laurel as a boxer whose quest to get insurance should he get injured. This after Laurel ended up losing a boxing match. The result of that search for insurance is the noted pie fight, which is the ultimate slapstick bit on the highest level. In yet another enjoyable short, titled “Me and My Pal,” Oliver’s wedding to the daughter of an oil magnate is put in jeopardy all thanks to a puzzle that Laurel bought for him as a wedding gift. Laurel and others inadvertently become completely wrapped up in assembling the puzzle, leading to plenty of laughs. In yet another great moment, Stan and Oliver are delivery men who are trying to get a piano delivered to a house in “The Music Box.” This short immediately conjures thoughts of some of The Three Stooges’ best bits. Much the same can be said of the short, “Busy Bodies,” in which the pair plays a pair of carpenters who get into all kinds of trouble. These are just some of the set’s most notable moments. The physical comedy that is incorporated into each story, such as Oliver getting stuck on the ladder, which itself is in a car driven by Laurel – in “Hog Wild” – is classic comedy in its own right and will entertain audiences just as much as the story. That moment in “County Hospital” when the doctor hangs out a window a la Harold Lloyd in the 1923 short “Safety Last!” makes for its own share of laughs, too, adding even more entertainment value. Even the more subtle physical comedy in “Their First Mistake,” which finds Oliver accidentally feeding Stan with a bottle at one point, makes for its own laughs. Simply put, the stories featured in this set and their overall content is sure to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Sure, it isn’t the complete shorts collection – It features 20 shorts in all, and the one “movie” “Sons of the Desert” — but it certainly is a rich presentation that any viewer will appreciate. Keeping all of this in mind, the content featured in Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations more than makes this collection worth watching. It is only one part of what makes the set so appealing. Its secondary content – the bonus content – adds to that entertainment and engagement.
The bonus content that accompanies the set’s shorts is important to note because it takes viewers behind the scenes of Laurel & Hardy’s shorts. Hal Roach’s audio interview is one of the most notable of the interviews. Roach, who’s studio handled Laurel & Hardy’s presentations, reveals in his interview that the writing process for the shorts was handled mainly by the writers and by Stan and Oliver. He stresses that he kept a hands-off approach to the shorts’ creative process during his discussion. He goes so far as to admit that, “I’d just slow them down on set.” This gives viewers a glimpse into how the stories in these shorts came to life. It creates a new appreciation for the final product.
Another notable interview that accompanies the set comes from actress Anita Garvin. Featured in the set’s first disc, Garvin’s interview finds her talking about her initial fear of Stan Laurel, because she had never met him or Oliver Hardy. As she continues, Garvin reveals that in meeting them, she realized that Laurel was actually a very “sweet, lovable man.” She talked about his positive work ethic in the process. Additionally, Garvin revealed that scripts were rare in Stan and Laurel’s features, and that ad-libbing was commonplace. This goes back to what Hal Roach noted in his interview about taking a hands-off approach to the features. This is just one more example of what audiences will appreciate in the way of the interviews. Joe Rock’s interview adds its own share of interest to the set, even despite being shorter than other interviews.
Rock reveals in his interview, that the budget for “Sons of the Desert” was very tight. He tied that in to an anecdote about discussions surrounding Stan Laurel’s salary at the time. On yet another topic, Rock also makes a statement about how much he enjoyed working with Stan and Laurel because the features at the time did not rely on sex and violence, unlike today’s comedy. He could not be more right. Between that discussion, his others, and those from the other noted figures (and those not noted here), the interviews in whole make for their own share of entertainment and engagement. When this item is considered with the overall content in the featured shorts, the overall content makes the overall viewing experience that much more enjoyable for audiences. Even with this in mind, there is still more to consider. That “more” is the actual presentation of the shorts.
The shorts featured in this set are presented in 2K/4K, remastered from the original 35mm film. The restoration was not just a one and done sort of process. It took painstaking efforts to bring them back to their original glory. There was first, a process to restore the film negatives, using chemicals. That was followed by another process to further define the footage and make it sharp and clear. The time and effort that was used to restore the footage clearly paid off. Each short is crystal clear yet still has that original grainy feel, which will certainly generate a sense of nostalgia among audiences. What’s more, that general clarity of the picture and sound adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of the set. That appeal ensures in its own right, viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment because it will keep audiences watching and laughing at each featured short. The result of all things considered is a presentation that is just as wonderful for its actual content as for the presentation of said content. Simply put, they come together to make the set, again, a must have for any classic movie and TV aficionado and any Laurle & Hardy devotee.
MVD Entertainment Group’s recently released Blu-ray set The Definitive Restorations is a presentation that so many audiences will appreciate. Its stories and their featured comedic content is sure to give audiences the happy escape that they need from all the negativity in the news and the world. The interviews that accompany the shorts adds its own share of entertainment and engagement for audiences. The painstaking efforts that were made to restore the featured shorts adds even more appreciation for the set. Given, it is not the definitive collection of Laurel & Hardy features by any means, but it definitely is an enjoyable presentation. It is available now.
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