Big Noise [1944]

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Though Laurel and Hardy fans will attest to the relative weakness of the three films included in this Gift set, Great Guns, Jitterbugs, and The Big Noise, the films still brim with classic Stan and Ollie antics, and more intriguingly, serve as historical markers of American Wartime Cinema. These post-Hal Roach, Twentieth Century Fox releases offer, even in the liner notes, information about how the film industry was influenced by World War II. Great Guns' plot most directly refers to the war, showing what happens when the Army recruits two clowns. Gunpowder gags, planes dropping flour bombs, and physical comedy inside the barracks, involving cots, dangling light bulbs, and mess kits abound in this film that hopefully entertained soldiers. Jitterbugs, the funniest film in the set, provides comedic escape from hardship by constructing a plot based on a dislike for gas rationing. In Jitterbugs, Stan and Ollie, stars of the Zoot Suit Band, encounter a scam artist who allegedly can turn water into gasoline with an invented pill. Together, the three men swindle their ways into absurd situations, culminating in hilarious scenes of Stan disguised as a wealthy elderly lady who at one point declares, to a bunch of gangsters, that she's feeling "quite gay." Clever double-entendres, subtle wordplay, and co-star Vivian Blaine make this film wonderful. A documentary entitled "Revenge of the Sons of the Desert," about Laurel and Hardy fan clubs and conventions, shows how the wacky spirits of Stan and Ollie live on into the present day. True, these three films may not be their strongest, but they defined comedy during some of America's grimmest times. --Trinie Dalton

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