Sunday, 31 July 2011

Laurel & Hardy Double Bill: Them Thar Hills & Tit For Tat (1934 & 1935)

In Them Thar Hills, Oliver is suffering from a very bad case of gout, when the doctor tells Ollie it stems from "too much high living" Stan suggests that they should move down into the basement!

On the doctor's advice they hire a caravan and head up into the mountains to get away from it all. They set up camp next to a well, which unknown to them has been filled with moonshine by a bunch of bootleggers trying to evade the police.

They put the taste of the "water" down to the iron in mountain spring water, and they drink it with gusto!

Enter Mr & Mrs Hall (Charlie Hall & Mae Busch) who are stuck in the mountains as their car has run out of gas, the boys helpfully offer to let Mr Hall have some gas, and Mrs Hall stays with the boys while he goes back to the car, and is so thirsty she happily accepts the offer of some mountain water, with a knowing look to camera, she thinks the boys are secret boozers.

Mr Hall returns to find all of them as drunk as skunks, and so ensues one of the greatest slapstick fights committed to celluloid! The movie ends in an explosive way, when, Ollie, with his pants on fire, dives into the well to put out the flames.

One year later, Oliver & Stanley are about to open their new business, an electrical store. Oliver chatting to a passing policeman tells him they would have opened the previous day, but his partner had just had a mental breakdown!

Oliver tells Stan that they should go over to the shop next door to introduce themselves to their new neighbours, when they enter the shop next door they soon realise that it's run by Mr & Mrs Hall, who they ran into in the mountains last year (Pom Pom!).

Ollie offers to let bygones be bygones, but Mr Hall is still upset about what happened last year and tells them to mind their own business.

While endeavouring to fit light bulbs to their shop sign, Oliver gets knocked off his ladder and ends up trapped on Mr & Mrs Hall's window ledge, Mrs Hall takes pity on him and lets him come back down by walking through their store. Mr Hall, the very definition of jealousy, gets the wrong impression, probably not helped by Oliver saying "Well I've never been in that position before!".

Predictably he accuses Oliver of philandering with his wife, Oliver is enraged, Stan puts in his two penn'orth "you're right, Ollie; he who filters your good name steals trash".

And so begins a humdinger of a showdown as the boys and Mr Hall trade blows in spectacular style.

Every time the boys leave Mr Hall's store they help themselves to a marshmallow, this is finally paid off when Mr Hall laces the marshmallows with alum to humorous effect.

While the boys are so intent on their feud, leaving their store unattended, they give little heed to a chap who keeps wandering out of their store with goods that he hasn't paid for. By the end of the film their store is completely empty (a truck drives away loaded with the last of their stock).

There are some people out there who look down on slapstick humour as low brow entertainment, but I defy anyone to watch Them Thar Hills & Tit For Tat and not enjoy with childish glee the moment, for instance, when Stan cuts off Mr Hall's fringe and glues it on to his chin using molasses, the comedy timing by all involved is superlative.  

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