The Definitive Restorations
Much has been said online and already on Bowler Dessert Online. We offer here some more observations.
In particular we recommend a very detailed analysis by Mike Jones at https://beauchumps.wordpress.com/2020/07/16/laurel-and-hardy-the-definitive-restorations-review
Mike says, "I must again thank Randy Skretvedt for his additional help and bespoke comments for the review. As I've already said, you really need to get these to experience them first hand."
My first reaction was to marvel at the enhanced quality of picture and sound. When I watched The Battle of the Century I thought how lucky we are that we can now - at last - have our own complete copy in outstanding quality. I was also amazed at the quality of the print of The Tree in a Test Tube (in a complete version), which I had previously seen in various versions of much lesser clarity. In fact every single film is stunningly improved.
Nearly nine hours of supplements are wonderful. The 2,500 photos, interviews, posters, studio files and trailers (some rare) are in themselves a collector’s true treasure.
The commentaries are a delight. We are told, for example, that Hardy sometimes shaved off his moustache between movies. We learn that the voice over the radio in Me and My Pal is the same as the voice of the butler - we are not supposed to notice. We hear why The Tree is a Test Tube was shot in colour. That’s That vastly benefits from its explanatory commentary on the out-takes and alternative takes. We are told of an alternative ending proposed for Towed in a Hole. We even discover how it was made possible for Stan to eat his hat in Way Out West. There are simply HUNDREDS of bits of trivia, which I absolutely relish. All thanks to Randy Skretvedt.
Anita Garvin, in a 1981 interview with Randy, talks about how her hair caught fire due to the heat from the lights and described Stan Laurel as “never nasty”. Joe Rock describes Stan as “a dedicated comedian” and reveals that Laurel once said that he would never work with Hardy. Roy Seawright talks about Stan playing tricks on the film set.
There have been just a few adverse comments, with which I have to agree. For example, it would have been good to have been able to play both the commentary and movie soundtrack simultaneously (as is customary on DVD and Blu-Ray). I was surprised too that there was no accompanying booklet - not even a leaflet, which would have been very useful. But, hey, look at what you do get. And the bargain price is around £50.00, including shipping from the USA. It is not on sale in the UK, but the discs from the USA are compatible with UK players. I bought the set from http://www.deepdiscount.com and other suppliers include Amazon.
By the way
Reel 2 of The Battle of the Century has that "didn't they know they had that film" story to it.
Even though only 3 minutes were believed to exist since 1957, what you now see on the Blu-ray was in well marked cans in two separate archives but nobody paid attention to them.
Reel 2 is a 16mm preview print made by Robert Youngson in the mid 1950's from the sole surviving Nitrate 35mm negative. He wanted a print to view and decide what sections of the 35mm negative to include in his upcoming highlights film. It is speculated that Youngson's failure to duplicate the entire 35mm print for posterity and exposing it to the open air encouraged its decomposition.
All the while the 16mm print existed in Youngson's film collection. Mr. Berkow bought Youngson's collection, and when he passed Jon Mersalis got some of the collection. Even Jon dismissed that reel marked "BATTLE OF THE CENTURY reel 2" as little value, believing it was the 3 minute excerpt from Youngson's film (Blackhawk had sold that excerpt). It is not wrong to assume this as the rumor going around was that the Nitrate 35mm negative was deeply decomposed when Youngson accessed it and only the usable 3 minutes was duplicated for The Golden Age of Comedy. This was likely speculation that evolved into a truth when nothing further turned up.
After going through about 90% of the collection, Jon finally opened up that can marked 'reel 2' to find a full reel of film. You can imagine the excitement, then the shock to smell the Vinegar Syndrome decomposition. This print could have been unusable in the next 5 or so years. We were all very lucky the print landed in the right hands and multiple safety negatives, stored in multiple countries, were made to insure this film would continue to survive.
Paul Mular in Laurel and Hardy News group