NIGHT OWLS has a very interesting premise, in my opinion. It is interesting to see a set-up that starts out involving Kennedy before he even meets Laurel and Hardy. It shows a different side of Kennedy that we’re not entirely used to, particularly when he is made fun of by his colleagues.
The short works for the most part. Laurel and Hardy work very well off each other when trying to both get into the yard and into the house. I particularly like how the two of them continue getting each other left out of the house, usually through Stan’s incompetence though sometimes also due to Hardy’s anger as well. James Finlayson is in here as well and gets some funny reactions, particularly during the cat scene and when the police chief calls him “old and nutty” (the latter is, without a doubt, my favorite scene in the entire film). At times the short does drag a bit, such as when they try to get over the wall, but for the most part even that works. The ending, though resulting in a good final closing gag, does feel a bit too sudden and though I think we’re supposed to assume Laurel and Hardy escaped, there really is not much of a sense of closure. Still, the short does make for a very entertaining experience.
Then there’s the Spanish version, LADRONES. This is a longer version of the original short with the English actors actually speaking Spanish, even though they’re not that good at it. Some gags don’t quite feel as energetic as they are in the English version. I don’t necessarily blame the actors or even James Parrott for this; it’s just the result of trying to film multiple versions at once with some being in languages half of the actors don’t even understand. They’re clearly trying, though, and many gags still work pretty well.
Some gags play out a bit differently than they do in the English version. For example, in the English version, the hand shaking gag occurs early in the Kennedy exchange while they’re sitting down, while in the Spanish version it is done at the end of the exchange while standing up. There are also more gags added to stretch out the length of the short. The original short already felt a bit too dragged out anyway so this makes it feel even slower, though I’ll admit that I thought the rake gag was kind of funny and I really liked when Hardy got the vase stuck over his head and Stan failed to break it off. The ending in this version is longer and also a bit underwhelming, though it is much more conclusive and seeing more of James Finlayson is almost always a good thing, so I’ll say that I prefer this ending over the original.
As a whole, I consider the English version to be better, though I’m glad that the Spanish version still survives as well.
English Version: 9 out of 10
Spanish Version: 8 out of 10