Saturday, December 15, 2007


Still cold, still festive - time for some Laurel & Hardy? Absolutely...

Below Zero from 1930 is perhaps the quintessential depression era comedy. Everyone is either put upon, a chiseler or a roughneck - even a blind passerby is a shim-shamming con artist. And there you have Stan & Ollie at their most sublimely naive - trying to earn their daily bread busking "In the Good Ol'Summertime" to freezing street stompers in the middle of a snow-swept winter...

The first half of the movie (featured above) follows the Boy's musical misadventures - climaxing in the destruction of their only source of income - whilst the second features them discovering the down & outs dream ticket: a dropped wallet stuffed full of green backs!

After nearly being brained for their trouble they invite the policeman who aided their narrow escape for a slap up dinner - with terrible consequences. The short is topped off with one their most bizarre and brilliantly executed freak endings.

How this all remains hilarious as opposed to horrific is a testament to their consummate skill as comedians & filmmakers.

Now, I'm sure most of you don't need me to tell you that such was the massive popularity of the Boys worldwide during this era, Stan & Ollie remade their short films in a variety of languages once they'd completed the English versions. Unlike the clip above they weren't over dubbed - since talkie technology was still in it's infancy at the time - but shot again from scratch with the lines spoken phonetically. If anything this made them even more charming and popular to audiences.

When budgetary constraints combined with advancements in sound made reshoots redundant, fans demanded the dubbed versions retained the same stilted and accented delivery they had come to expect!

The original Spanish version of Below Zero (Tiembla y Titubea / Shivering & Shaking) has survived and is available on this DVD - I've not seen it but I've been led to believe it features a around 10 minutes of extra footage, as - once again - their fame overseas meant many of these alternative versions would often be released as the main feature attraction...


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