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Author Topic: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy  (Read 2317 times)

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Offline metaldams

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Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
« on: July 19, 2015, 07:00:32 PM »
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  • http://www.lordheath.com/index.php?p=1_222_Berth-Marks
    http://www.laurelandhardycentral.com/berthm.html
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019686/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x24v3h1_berth-marks-b-w-1929-laurel-hardy_shortfilms

    Watch BERTH MARKS in the link above.

          Sad to say, the second all talking Laurel and Hardy film, BERTH MARKS, is not one of their better films.  From a purely technological point of view, it beats UNACCUSTOMED AS WE ARE.  The beginning train station scene where Stan and Ollie are trying in vain to find each other is nicely done and even involves some camera movement.  There's even some scenery change as they go into the train, so it doesn't feel quite as boxed in....kind of, sort of (more on that later). 

          As for the best moments of the film?  I can't think of a single great line or gag to be had.  The majority of the short is done at a pleasant pace, but I still get the felling Stan, Ollie, and Hal Roach are getting used to this talking thing...especially Stan.  He still doesn't have much to say, it's as if he's still learning how to interact with Ollie using dialogue.  Well, OK, a highlight is Ollie takes a great fall at one point while trying to climb the top bunk, a great thing for a man his size.  I suppose the long camera set up and the idea of Ollie chasing Stan away at the end is fun as well, surely an influence on the work of The Three Stooges. 

          But man, overall, this thing falls flat.  The train conductor barking jibberish at the beginning feels like a gratuitous sound gag, more like showing off than anything of comic substance.  The whole clothes tearing thing?  Developed much better in YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN, where there's a slow build up that builds and builds and gets more chaotic as time goes on.  Here?  Just a few instances where some characters rip some clothing, including once off screen so we hear it, just because they need to remind us there's sound.  Then the gag gets revisited much later in the short for one shot.  The biggest culprit, and most infamous one, is when Stan and Ollie are in the upper berth getting undressed and being in each other's way.  It's five minutes of nothing but discomfort.  No peaks and valleys to speak of, just a straight line of claustrophobia, the boxed in feeling I spoke of above.

           On a personal level, I used to visit a girlfriend in Scranton taking a Greyhound bus back when I was in college several years back, and sometimes we used to stop in a town called Pottsville.  I smile whenever I hear Pottsville mentioned in this short, crazy and in my case, innocent days.  Funny how art can stir memories for one person and have zero effect on anybody else.

           Overall, the shorts will improve over these next few weeks!  I'm fascinated by this film on a strictly academic level, it's talking Laurel and Hardy in its infancy.

    6.5/10


    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #1 on: July 19, 2015, 07:54:28 PM »
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  • True.  You want to love it, but it's just too primitive.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #2 on: July 19, 2015, 08:00:39 PM »
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  • True.  You want to love it, but it's just too primitive.

    That sums it up beautifully.

    Offline Seamus

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #3 on: July 20, 2015, 12:17:33 PM »
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  • I'm fascinated by this film on a strictly academic level, it's talking Laurel and Hardy in its infancy.

    This sums it up for me.  As a comedy short, BERTH MARKS is one of their weakest, but I still enjoy watching it as an interesting curio.

    Stan has a great moment at the end, when Ollie asks him pointedly where the "fiddle" is (that's a big fiddle they're hauling), knowing full well they left it on the train.  Stan spends a few confused seconds looking around/patting himself looking for the instrument, then when the penny drops he flashes Ollie a smile as he points backward toward the departing train, momentary pleased with himself that he came up with the correct answer (before it dawns on him that it's not a good answer).  Funniest moment in the short for me. 

    I also liked Ollie's performance in the little scene where he's presenting his ticket to the conductor.  It's a small inconsequential scene, but I always enjoy watching Ollie's trademark prissy, fastidious mannerisms as he's carrying out simple tasks like handing over a train ticket.

          But man, overall, this thing falls flat.  The train conductor barking jibberish at the beginning feels like a gratuitous sound gag, more like showing off than anything of comic substance.  The whole clothes tearing thing?  Developed much better in YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN, where there's a slow build up that builds and builds and gets more chaotic as time goes on.  Here?  Just a few instances where some characters rip some clothing, including once off screen so we hear it, just because they need to remind us there's sound.  Then the gag gets revisited much later in the short for one shot.  The biggest culprit, and most infamous one, is when Stan and Ollie are in the upper berth getting undressed and being in each other's way.  It's five minutes of nothing but discomfort.  No peaks and valleys to speak of, just a straight line of claustrophobia, the boxed in feeling I spoke of above.

    This short does have an odd pacing.  Despite the shirt-ripping business, the unintelligible conductor gag, and a few other minor bits, you come away with the impression that you've just watched 20 minutes of L&H undressing in a berth.  It doesn't even seem to have been directed or orchestrated in any way - they're just totally winging it in front of the camera and failing to make it funny.  The shirt-ripping scenes feel like they're happening in another dimension.  Like you said, no peaks or valleys, just things sort of...happening for 20 minutes.  Not a great short, but the reasons it isn't great are interesting by-products of the time in which it was made, and give it a uniqueness that makes it fascinating to watch.  In the same way that dentistry tools from 1929 are fascinating to look at in a museum, but you wouldn't want to use them for practical purposes today.

    Love the final shot of Ollie chasing Stan down the tracks.  Not so much for the chase itself, but because the image of the railroad tracks on the edge of some small 1929 Midwestern town (OK, probably some town in California standing in for the Midwest) is so cool.


    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #4 on: July 21, 2015, 05:49:27 PM »
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  • What a total abuse of a beautiful art!  Man did not invent sound film for this rubbish.

    The opening scene of this is pretty typical of most comedies from any era.  The train conductor's gibberish added nothing to the quality of the plot; it's just a man using his best auctioneer impression, though I like Ollie's snarky tone with the man.  The best part was them trying to get on the train.  As a musician, watching them lose so much music is awful, but we again here Ollie's trademark "Why don't you do something to help me?!"  We see them chase the train and get on.

    From here on is pretty much pure turd, to say the least.  There was nothing funny in the scene with them walking down the aisle except for Stan sitting on the hat, and the guy's reaction wasn't even funny.  Sitting on a midget?  Not funny.  Getting the "fiddle" (cello) stuck in the curtain?  Not funny.  Them getting into the berth?  Done much better by the Stooges in A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN, although it's always funny to see Stan not understand how to jump off a push from Ollie.  The baby crying?  Really unnecessary as is all the hushing.

    The scene with them in the berth was just painful.  All they do is hit each other and get tangled in clothing.  As said above by metaldams, it's pure claustrophobia, and I am a claustrophobe, which makes that scene really squeamish for me.  The only good bit here is the shoe-shine boy taking their shoes, seeing the holes, and throwing out the window.  The rest is just uncomfortable.  And them arriving at their stop so quickly just feels forced, as if there is humor in watching two friends who, throughout the entire short, act more like a boy (Stan) with an abusive big brother (Ollie); are we supposed to find their effort wasted funny?  I sincerely hope not.

    The train just dumping them off?  Pretty dumb, especially since they didn't really do much wrong.  The entire clothes ripping thing?  REALLY dumb, especially since there was really no motive.  Once it was even that should have been the end.  The whole scene was just an excuse to throw in some rips and some woman screaming, and, for some reason, in these sound shorts the producers have both times amplified the women screaming so that it is painfully loud (I sincerely hurt my ears on both Ollie's wife in UNACCUSTOMED AS WE ARE and on the women in this one) while the rest is barely audible in comparision.  The ending was a slight comfort and more typical of the Oliver and Hardy I have come to enjoy, especially the way Stan stops as if to say "that's it?" before Ollie chases him at the end.

    Ollie seems comfortable with the sound here.  He gets his volumes right.  Stan, on the other hand, is clearly adapting.  He doesn't project and is clearly working on his crying sound here.  I am surprised by how little of an English accent he really had.  Overall, this is obviously an early sound film, so I can say with certainty it will get better; otherwise, they would have been cancelled long before they stopped making films.

    5/10
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #5 on: July 21, 2015, 10:16:17 PM »
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  • Both enjoyable reads, Seamus and Paul Pain.

    We all seem to be on agreement about the upper berth scene.  Well, not the Hal Roach people.  Later on when they made a Spanish version of THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE (remade 15 years later by The Three Stooges as IF A BODY MEETS A BODY), they decided to incorporate the upper berth footage while on their way to the mansion.  On top of this, THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE, like the similar Stooge film, is not all that great to begin with, so adding the upper berth scene on top of it is extremely mind numbing.

    Like I said before, the next few weeks, overall, will be improvements.  A few of them I even consider classics.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #6 on: July 22, 2015, 05:59:29 PM »
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  • Later on when they made a Spanish version of THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE (remade 15 years later by The Three Stooges as IF A BODY MEETS A BODY), they decided to incorporate the upper berth footage while on their way to the mansion.  On top of this, THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE, like the similar Stooge film, is not all that great to begin with, so adding the upper berth scene on top of it is extremely mind numbing.

    This isn't mind numbing; it's brain damaging.
    #1 fire kibitzer

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #7 on: July 22, 2015, 07:00:09 PM »
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  • L & H repeat it again in, I think, The Big Noise.  That one is supposed to be the best.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #8 on: July 22, 2015, 08:06:58 PM »
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  • L & H repeat it again in, I think, The Big Noise.  That one is supposed to be the best.

    It's been forever since I've seen that film and the other Fox films.  All I know is when I finally saw them, I found them to be much better than their reputation, if still not as good as the Roach stuff.  The two 40's MGM films, on the other hand....

    Will definitely check out the upper berth scene in THE BIG NOISE when we get there.  I would not be shocked if it's better than BERTH MARKS.  I honestly don't remember.

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #9 on: July 22, 2015, 08:30:38 PM »
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  • I haven't seen Big Noise since I was a kid, so I really don't remember it, but I believe they add Jack Norton, doing his drunk act, so there's THREE in the berth, and supposedly it's better, more ludicrous, that way.  I understand that Big Noise is WAY better than its reputation, which is not hard since its reputation for thirty years at least has been abysmal.  This is the first time I'm really itchy to open my birthday present, The Essential Collection, but that's still five weeks away.  I shall be strong.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #10 on: July 22, 2015, 08:37:45 PM »
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  • I haven't seen Big Noise since I was a kid, so I really don't remember it, but I believe they add Jack Norton, doing his drunk act, so there's THREE in the berth, and supposedly it's better, more ludicrous, that way.  I understand that Big Noise is WAY better than its reputation, which is not hard since its reputation for thirty years at least has been abysmal.  This is the first time I'm really itchy to open my birthday present, The Essential Collection, but that's still five weeks away.  I shall be strong.

    The Fox Films were released in a couple of DVD sets some years back, all with commentaries, and I think their reputation has slightly grown since then, THE BIG NOISE included.  I remember JITTERBUGS and THE BULLFIGHTERS being standouts.

    As far as the wait, stay strong, my friend.

    Offline luke795

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #11 on: July 29, 2015, 11:38:39 AM »
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  • Isn't the train scene from Berth Marks similar to the train scene in Pain in the Pullman?

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #12 on: July 29, 2015, 02:23:49 PM »
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  • The one in A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN is actually funny.  BERTH MARKS is like getting waterboarded.
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    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Berth Marks (1929) Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #13 on: October 19, 2017, 10:15:53 AM »
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  • So, early on when I decided to start catching up with the Laurel and Hardy reviews, I happened to catch this on TCM and hated it. Watching it again, I tried to go in with the thought that it couldn’t have been as bad as I remembered. I was right; it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It was worse.

    The opening seems promising enough. We get a decent exterior shot and the sequence of Laurel and Hardy trying to find each other is pretty good. This is the last time you’ll see me say anything good about this short. While I can sort of see what they’re going for with the incomprehensible conductor shouting out the train’s destinations, it kind of comes across as hypocritical considering the sound quality makes it hard to hear some of the other actors as well. If you want a better version of this gag, see the beginning of CITY LIGHTS.

    Then we actually get on the train and this is where things really go downhill. The short is trying to depend on the humor of crowding in trains, which can be a problem in real life, but doesn’t necessarily make for good entertainment. Already the short is beginning to feel too boxed in and we’re not even to the worst part yet.

    So then we get to the berths and Stan and Ollie try to get into the berth. As mentioned before, A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN also tried this idea, but to much better effect. The reason for this is that A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN relied on more than just trying to get on the upper berth. There were supporting players who were there to react to the Stooges’ antics and Bud Jamison’s impatience also helped to carry the scene. Here, it’s just Stan, Ollie, and the sound of a crying baby, which gets real annoying, real fast. It also doesn’t help that it briefly cuts to a shot of the fight between the other passengers. That shot makes you wish you were watching that instead of Laurel and Hardy awkwardly falling off the berth repeatedly.

    Then we get to the worst part of this short, the actual upper berth scene itself. This takes the whole boxed in idea to a new level. The camera is way too close to them, to the point that you can’t even tell what they’re doing half the time anyway and the other half, as mentioned before, just makes you feel claustrophobic. For some reason, they thought having Laurel and Hardy trapped in such a confined space was such a good idea that they tried to milk the gag for all it was worth (or in this case, all that it wasn’t worth). It goes on...and on...and on...and on! I was constantly wishing for it to just move on to something else and when it finally is over, the short ends. Instead of focusing on them losing everything on their trip to Pottsville, why couldn’t we have just started them in Pottsville and have them perform their vaudeville act? I know the technology wasn’t entirely there yet, but it would have been much more tolerable than this.

    I know it seems wrong to be so harsh on such an early sound output, but UNACCUSTOMED AS WE ARE was also an early sound output and that short had a much better understanding of how to use Laurel and Hardy’s physical talents. It understood that they needed space to work with and it gives it to them, yet it’s still able to work within early sound’s limitations by keeping the camera in place.

    As you can tell, I despise this short. So far, this is the worst Laurel and Hardy film that I have ever seen, and that’s including ATOLL K! All I can say is, stay way away from this short at all costs!

    2 out of 10