Honestly, I do think that this is a very good premise for a comedy, but unfortunately neither Laurel and Hardy or The Three Stooges were able to execute it as well as they should have, in the Stooges’ case because of Curly’s stroke and in Laurel and Hardy’s case probably because of the loss of Stan’s infant son. MURDER CASE is definitely the better of the two versions, though, and is still alright. If anything it’s just kind of underwhelming.
Yes, as metaldams mentioned, there is no standout gag in this, but it’s not entirely lifeless either. Some of the scare gags got some laughs out of me, like Laurel and Hardy running from the bat or when Hardy freaks out after seeing Laurel’s hand. Nothing great, but there is enough in there to say that it wasn’t a complete waste of time. In addition, we do get some nice performances from the detectives, especially Fred Kelsey.
Still, the short isn’t without its problems either. Frank Austin as the butler tries to be comedic and creepy at the same time, but ends up coming off as neither. I’m sure this guy has been good in other stuff, but here, he really felt out of his element. That weird smile he does after checking on Laurel and Hardy comes off as just that: weird. Additionally, the other suspects barely get to do anything in this film, and, yes, that ending was pretty stupid as well. Personally, I think that the ending of the three-reel version of LAUGHING GRAVY would have been pretty fitting here story-wise, since this already deals with a Laurel family member, even though LAUGHING GRAVY as a whole is a better film. Overall, I wouldn’t consider this the worst Laurel and Hardy film, but not much about it stands out and it’s a kind of comedy that’s been done better by others, notably Abbott and Costello. Part of me does wonder, though if this may have been better as a feature, since there would have been more opportunity to develop the characters of the other suspects...
Well, funny I should mention that, because the Spanish version, NOCHE DE DUENDES, is a feature film. Yes, this film is over forty minutes, so it technically qualifies as Laurel and Hardy’s first feature. Who knows? Maybe it could be even better than the English version...
So the film starts off basically the same as the English version, with Laurel and Hardy fishing at the dock. No major differences between the two versions at this point. So, after that, they...no. They can’t. No! Please! Anything but that! ANYTHING BUT THAT!
(sigh) Yes, it’s...the train sequences from BERTH MARKS.
This was such a pain to sit through again. Not only do they take out the opening at the station, which was the only part in the original I thought was decent, but I’m pretty sure that this is even longer than the train sequences in BERTH MARKS. I ranted enough about that short in that thread, so I’ll just add one more observation: I don’t remember if this was the case in the original or not (and I most certainly will not go back and check), but there are a lot of uncomfortable shots of Laurel and Hardy sticking their bottoms up close to the camera in this version.
After the train sequences finally end, the film pretty much plays out like MURDER CASE again. Rather than retaining Kelsey, this version instead retains Frank Austin. We see the exact same gags play out that were somewhat funny in the original, and play out pretty much the same here. Nothing more to add here: an already somewhat weaker entry is made almost unwatchable by using the abominable BERTH MARKS as filler. Definitely not a good feature film debut.
English Version: 6 out of 10
Spanish Version: 3 out of 10