Thursday, August 28, 2008
Hog Wild (1930)
“Hog Wild” (1930) is a Laurel and Hardy short that has nothing to do with hogs and restricts itself to how many awful things that can happen to you putting up an antenna on your roof.
With sparse dialogue and inventive gags, the team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are free to create in pantomime what other artists may express in free verse or abstract painting. They go hog wild in their limitless imaginations to find our funny bones and extract from us our empathy for these two hapless but well-intentioned men.
After a slow start with a routine about Hardy not being able to find his hat, the job before them is to string an aerial on the roof for the radio because “Mrs. Hardy wants to hear Japan.” We, who are about to slip into a world where television aerials will be useless without a digital converter box, and despite all our technology usually hear anything about Japan or any other distant country only if there is an Olympic Games being held there, can only imagine the wondrous world where a bit of wire on the roof can pull in the other side of the world. No wonder the boys are so anxious to pull off this accomplishment.
The other wonder is watching Laurel and Hardy performing very athletic stunts. This is not a studio set. The film production crew built a house on a rented lot on Madison Avenue in the Culver City section of Los Angeles, and the boys are actually leaping, hopping, stumbling on a real roof. The breeze is rippling through their clothing. We can see from the camera angle that this is a much more sparsely settled neighborhood in 1930 than it is today, and we can clearly see that the action is taking place one story above the ground.
Sometimes the simplest gags trigger the most laughs. Such as when Hardy’s bottom catches on fire from the backfire of Stan’s auto, and Stan, coming to his aid with a bucket of water, throws it on Hardy’s face accidentally instead of the part of him which is smoking. It’s a simple and obvious gag, but timed so well, it’s very funny.
The finale comes as Stan accidentally puts his car in gear. The ladder upon which Hardy has been standing is placed on a board on top of the open car to make it taller so he can reach the roof. With the car thrust into drive, the ladder pulls away from the roof, Hardy hollers in distress, and Stan shrieks in terror, hugging the ladder to keep Hardy aloft, as the car plows down was must be Wilshire Boulevard, because the trolley they smash into has a “Wilshire” placard on it. Another trolley smashes into them in front of the Bank of Culver City. Part of the fun of these early shorts is seeing the actual city streets of the day, a real playground of the movie world of actual near-car crashes, not real crashes enhanced with computer generated mushroom clouds of fire, not fake ones with rear-screen projection, but real cars almost -- and the almost is what is funny, crashing. A world of possibilities around every corner for instant failure or instant success. A world where a wire strung on the one-story roof of your house can bring you Japan.