Saturday, June 6, 2009

Utopia (1951)

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy inherit an island in the South seas. After most of their inheritance is lost to taxes, they are eager to live a life beholden to no one. They team up with a man who has no legal citizenship and find a stow away with a checkered past, land on a radioactive atoll, find a girl, form their own nation, deal with an uprising ... you what? This sucker doesn't deserve the effort. It blew.

My first impression was, damn, Laurel and Hardy look old. I tried looking up "Utopia" and had difficulty finding it. Come to find out, It's original title is the captivating "Atoll K". Stan was rather ill during filming, and Oliver, obese by modern standards, was on his last leg. He died six years after the movie was filmed. This was the last film for either of them.

Another strange thing was that the voices of all characters other than Laurel and Hardy appeared to be dubbed. This film was apparently an Italian effort, so maybe Laurel and Hardy's voices were filmed in English, dubbed for the Italian release, then the reverse was done for the American. It was distracting, at any rate. The production value as a whole was rather low. I originally thought it was filmed in the early 30's.

I've always known Laurel & Hardy by their images and mannerisms. I was very familiar with their "another fine mess" catch phrase, but I wonder how much of them I actually watched as a kid. Apparently enough, but maybe, like Charlie Chaplin, more so by people impersonating them. I found the comedy bits tired, unoriginal, and unfunny. My 13 year old son watched a bit of it with me and he laughed at some of the physical bits, but I'd seen them before. And done better. By the Stooges, for one.

Stan Laurel was embarrassed by this movie and I see why. I'm glad I watched a Laurel & Hardy film, but I wish it wasn't this one. It was watchable, but there was little to distinguish it. I might be being generous by rating it AMRU 2.5.

On the same DVD were a few shorts. I saw their first together, called "The Lucky Dog (1919)", a PSA called "The Tree in a Test Tube (1943)", then something called "The Sawmill (1922)", during which I fell asleep. I believe there were three or four more. Maybe I'll watch them before I return the disk.

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