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For most kids who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies, The Little Rascals was a staple of their television diet. However, few of those kids realized that the episodes they enjoyed were originally a series of theatrical short subjects, deed to accompany feature films.
The best of these sound shorts were what eventually made it to television. Hal Roach continued to crank out Our Gang shorts, with shifting line-ups of kids, until At that point, the series moved to MGM, and the quality of the shorts dropped noticeably. ClassicFlix has undertaken an ambitious multi-volume project to scan and restore all of the sound-era Our Gang comedies produced at Hal Roach Studios between and Since the shorts are being released on Blu-ray in chronological order, this first volume does not contain the familiar line-up of Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Buckwheat, etc.
Many of these short comedies were never included in the syndicated broadcast television packages, due either to their antiquated sound recording or because of a few examples of casual racism.
While some of the shorts feature negative racial stereotypes, it should be noted that by portraying an integrated group of friends, the Our Gang shorts were much more progressive than most of the films being produced at the same time. In the films, no one ever questions the fact that black and white kids are hanging out together and treating each other equally. This wonderfully forward-thinking aspect of the shorts can be attributed to producer and studio head, Hal Little rascals weezer.
He only cared if they were funny. Before we dip into the content of the new Blu-ray collection itself, I should reveal that even as a kid, I was never much of a fan of The Little Rascals. While classic comedy of the s and 40s has always been my cinema sweet spot, I much prefer stage-tested talents, such as W. Seeing little kids trying to tell jokes and perform physical slapstick is undeniably cute, but I also find it a little painful to watch. It smacks too much of amateur theatricals for my taste.
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At the same time, I am thrilled that these fragile films are being lovingly restored. ClassicFlix has done a miraculous job of preservation, clean-up, and digital mastering. The shorts look crisp and clean, without losing any detail in the process.
Small TalkDir: Robert F. The first Our Gang talkie is unsurprisingly the most creaky and stilted. The narrative is also pretty saccharine, in which Weezer gets adopted and separated from his sister Mary Ann Jackson. Farina has a natural ear for dialogue and has excellent comedic timing, especially for someone of his age. His scenes are the highlight of a pretty forgettable short subject. The second Our Gang talkie is a huge improvement over the first, and this is one of my favorite shorts in the set.
In this episode, Joe Cobb finds himself at the controls of a runaway locomotive, and many of the other kids are onboard. This short is focused on action, rather than dialogue, so all of the kids seem more comfortable. The film is also less stage-bound, with much of the action taking place on location in a rail yard.
The short is still a bit archaic, with mismatching shots in the some of the action sequencesbut that is a nitpick. This one is fun.
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Lazy DaysDir: Robert F. It is pretty apparent that director Robert McGowan realized that Farina was the most talented of the kids, as he gets a spotlight in this short subject. Unfortunately, that spotlight is in a short that completely subverts his character in negative ways. Farina was usually depicted as energetic and clever, but in this short, he is forced to play an exaggeratedly lazy character, which plays off of racial stereotypes.
The film is more technically accomplished than the first couple of shorts, but the story stinks. Walker, Robert F. This pugilistic-themed short is quite enjoyable. Farina needs a couple of heavyweight brawlers for his amateur prizefights, and he comes across Joe and Chubby fighting over Jean Darling. There are a of clever gags in this short, and the kids seem more comfortable with sound recording by this point.
Original little rascal quotes
The only thing that holds this short back from being one of the best in the collection is the slapdash nature in the way it was assembled. Like many early talkies, the action sequences were shot silent, so the director could shout directions to the actors and so action could be artificially sped up. Unfortunately, many of these silent sequences take place when the kids are in the boxing ring, with audience members obviously cheering.
No one thought to go back and add in crowd noise after the fact.
Bouncing BabiesDir: Robert F. In one of the better shorts, Weezer is feeling ignored due to the arrival of a baby brother. He decides to return the baby to the hospital and exchange it for something better possibly a goat. This is easily the strongest sound short of It has a strong story and effective gags, including some weirdness with Chubby in a devil mask. Best of all is a very effective running gag where Weezer breaks glass in a busy intersection in order to stop the cars and allow him to cross the street with the baby and Petey. Kennedy the Cop Edgar Kennedy convinces the kids that they should go treasure hunting to encourage them to stay away from dangerous abandoned buildings.
However, the kids decide to dig for treasure in the basement of an abandoned house.
A homeless maniac Max Davidson is squatting in the building and gives the kids a of scares. Unfortunately, his bizarre, nonsensical behavior drags the short down. The Our Gang comedies start off pretty strong with Shivering Shakespeare. Somehow, the gang has gotten roped into performing in an amateur production of Quo Vadiswith Chubby as Nero.
The gags are fairly repetitive with lots of variations on flubbed line readings and mishaps with props and costumes. Still, it is pretty amusing watching the kids getting increasingly frustrated with the promptings of Mrs. Plus, the short ends with a pie fight Little rascals weezer some of the impacts in slow motionwhich provides a reliable coda for the comedy. Jackie Cooper takes center stage in this short, Little rascals weezer which his efforts to woo Mary Ann Jackson lead him into a Medieval dual with his rival, Speck. The story, jokes, and action all gel wonderfully well in this comedy; and it is the best of the bunch in Volume 1.
Parents should be aware that there is a Three Stooges-level of violence in this short, as the boys go at each other with real swords and do plenty of damage to each other, the other members of the gang, and to all sorts of private property. Jackie accidentally gets himself locked out of the house on a blustery night, and his ramblings cause scares and misunderstandings for his parents and his neighbors, including Farina, Chubby, and Officer Kennedy.
The kids suspect spooks, and the adults assume that a prowler is on the loose. This pleasant short begins rather aimlessly with characters trying to draw humor from getting entangled in blowing newspaper. However, the short gets better as it goes along and ends rather strongly. Bear ShootersDir: Robert F. This is another strong short. Spud wants to go on a camping excursion with the fellas, but his mother tasks him with caring for his sick little brother Weezer.
Spud gets Mary to agree to take care of Weezer, but only if they can come along on the bear hunt. There are a lot of fun gags in this short, and it is one of the few in the collection that I actually remember broadcast on television.
The collection ends on a sour note with this short, which is full of negative racial stereotypes. Stepin Fetchit, who was auditioning for a potential Hal Roach series of his own, co-stars in this short with the gang, and his slow-talking, slow-moving caricature has not aged well. The middle section of this short in which Stepin Fetchit does not appear is fairly amusing, as Mary, Weezer, and the rest of the gang try to make their own taffy.
Unfortunately, like the prior Lazy Daysthe politically incorrect racial content drags the short down.
8x10 print bobby weezer hutchins the little rascals our gang #oggm
It is no wonder that this short was never included in the Little Rascals television package. I was most interested in seeing the films that have been ly unavailable on television and home video. This is an incredibly important restoration project that is off to a sterling start.
This set is very highly recommended. For Fans of: If you grew up with the familiar Little Rascals shorts, starring Spanky, Alfalfa, and Darla, you might want to see the earlier shorts that led to their introduction. Each of the eleven shorts included on the disc were newly scanned and restored from original 35mm film elements. ClassicFlix has endeavored to right this wrong by seeking out and finding the best available film elements for each short in this collection.
For seven of the eleven shorts in Volume 1, we were able to use original nitrate film elements as a scanning source. The audio on Hal Roach shorts especially from the first year of sound recording was not great when the films were originally released, so viewers should set their expectations accordingly. These vagaries in sound quality Little rascals weezer intrinsic to the original release, and it is in no way a fault of the restoration.
The shorts probably sound as good or better than when they were originally released.
The true value of this disc is in the quality of the restoration work, which could not have been inexpensive to perform. There are very few extras on the disc. The full bonus features are:. Many of those Blu-ray or DVD sets are linked below. He wanted a kid that looked like Our Gang -star Joe Cobb. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. McGowan The first Our Gang talkie is unsurprisingly the most creaky and stilted.
McGowan The second Our Gang talkie is a huge improvement over the first, and this is one of my favorite shorts in the set. McGowan It is pretty apparent that director Robert McGowan realized that Farina was the most talented of the kids, as he gets a spotlight in this short subject.
McGowan In one of the better shorts, Weezer is feeling ignored due to the arrival of a baby brother.