For years Laurel & Hardy's 1930 short comedy "Brats" has been a source of utter fascination and wonderment to me. This four character film is enacted by two actors only--Stan and Ollie, natch--playing themselves and their sons. Without the aid of trick photography (which didn't exist yet), the film devises ingenious ways to show the boys and their little boys together and seperately in a variety of scenes, all of which take place in a house (presumably Ollie's though I don't know why I presume this) one night while the wives are presumably out for the evening. (Again, I don't know why I presume this--perhaps L&H's wives both deserted them and the children, leaving the boys to be early single-parent householders).
Clearly the film required two sets: one of the house in which the adult scenes take place, and a reproduction of parts of
that house suitably overscaled so that Stan and Ollie can appear to be a third of their actual size. The cunning and ingenuity
with which this is accomplished is formidable; every time I see the movie I realize that every shot needed to be pre-planned and that nothing could mis-match without disastrous consequences for both the continuity and the comedy. Here is a rare still of the bathroom set (which the young L&H of course flood)--taken with Hal Roach starlet Thelma Todd posing on the tub.
The film is seamlessly made and utterly convincing--so much so that as many times as I've seen it and intend on watching it for the trick photography, I always forget and get caught up in the artful and timeless comedy of L&H. The hell with CG. "Brats" proves that special effects were within the grasp of the most creative minds without anything but sets and a little clever planning.
To my intense annoyance, after finishing this post I've discovered that "Brats" is no longer posted on youtube due to "copyright restrictions." Copyright? Copyright? It's 2011--who the hell cares about copyrights anymore? Anyway dig it up. You'll be glad that you did.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 10:38 AM