Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with the Hal Roach theatrical shorts featuring The Little Rascals, and some of their shorts from 1932 and 1933 that have been released together on disc in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3.
Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the shorts included in this set (for my comments on the individual shorts, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):
- Readin’ And Writin’ (1932) (Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)
- Brisbane (Kendell McComas) doesn’t want to go to school, so he tries to get himself expelled.
- Free Eats (1932) (Length: 19 minutes, 14 seconds)
- A society lady whose husband is running for office throws a special dinner for the poor kids in the area, so the Gang all decide to go. In the process, they help foil a “family” of thieves, with two midgets posing as little babies.
- Spanky (1932) (Length: 19 minutes, 52 seconds)
- The kids are trying to put on their own production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but young Spanky (George McFarland) keeps causing trouble for them.
- Choo-Choo! (1932) (Length: 20 minutes, 42 seconds)
- When a group of orphans come through on a train, a few of them who are trying to run away decide to switch places with some of the Gang. Mr. Henderson (Dell Henderson) is stuck trying to bring the “orphans” back to where they belong.
- The Pooch (1932) (Length: 20 minutes, 27 seconds)
- Stymie (Matthew Beard) is in trouble with the rest of the gang for stealing one of their pies, but gets back in their favor when he rescues their dogs from the dogcatcher (Budd Fine). However, the dogcatcher manages to get Petey, and threatens to gas him if the kids can’t come up with five dollars in a hurry.
- Hook And Ladder (1932) (Length: 18 minutes, 13 seconds)
- When the newspaper asks the local citizens to help out the fire department (due to a shortage of firefighters), the Gang decide to do their bit to help. In the process, they help put out a fire that the fire department itself doesn’t know about.
- Free Wheeling (1932) (Length: 19 minutes, 49 seconds)
- Young Dickie (Dickie Moore) has a stiff neck which requires a neck brace, but the doctors say that he can and should take it off (although his mother disagrees with them). Dickie ends up joining Stymie (Matthew Beard) and the Gang in their makeshift taxi.
- Birthday Blues (1932) (Length: 19 minutes, 31 seconds)
- Dickie’s (Dickie Moore) father forgets to give his wife a present for her birthday, so Dickie decides to earn some money to give her a dress. He decides to bake a cake full of prizes, with some help from Spanky (George McFarland) and Stymie (Matthew Beard), and charge the rest of the gang for it.
- A Lad An’ A Lamp (1932) (Length: 17 minutes, 17 seconds)
- After hearing the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp, the Gang all try to find a lamp with a genie. When circumstances lead them to believe that they found it, they try to figure out what to wish for.
- Fish Hooky (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 31 seconds)
- Some of the gang decide to play hooky when Joe (Joe Cobb) and Farina (Allen Hoskins) invite them to go fishing. However, their teacher, Miss Kornman (Mary Kornman) has decided to close the school and take the students out to the beach for the day.
- Forgotten Babies (1933) (Length: 16 minutes, 58 seconds)
- It’s Saturday, and the Gang wants to go swimming, but they’re all stuck taking care of their younger siblings. So, they decide to stick Spanky (George McFarland) with babysitting duties while they all go have fun.
After the first twenty-two talkie shorts from the Our Gang/ The Little Rascals series, which were included in Volume 1 (1929’s Small Talk through 1930’s A Tough Winter) and Volume 2 (1930’s Pups Is Pups through 1931’s Dogs Is Dogs), the series was in a state of transition, having lost Jackie Cooper to the movies and some of the other kids now aging out of the series. Going into 1932, the series found itself with a new star when George “Spanky” McFarland was introduced in the short Free Eats. He made such an impression that they used his screen test as part of the next short, Spanky. He would stick with the series for nearly eleven years, finishing out the series’ run with Hal Roach and staying when MGM took over. Starting with Hook And Ladder, veteran child actor Dickie Moore joined the group as the new leader, a role that he would hold for nearly eight entries in the series.
As I indicated in my previous reviews, these shorts are all new to me as I watch through these sets. Quite simply stated, I’ve been enjoying this batch of eleven shorts like I have the earlier ones! I’ve really enjoyed the introduction of George “Spanky” McFarland, one of the few Rascals I knew of previously (especially from his slightly later appearance in the film Kentucky Kernels), as he has provided a fair amount of humor throughout his appearances in this set. Of course, Stymie (Matthew Beard) has continued to be fun with his various quips (especially now that he seems to do a better job of acting). But I would say that some of the best shorts in this batch are those after Dickie Moore’s introduction, with Hook And Ladder one of the best, as well as A Lad An’ His Lamp and Fish Hooky (the latter of which also brings in some of the earlier Rascals for some extra fun)! Maybe not all of these shorts were great, but they were all quite fun ( the only real issue in this bunch is a very brief use of blackface in the short Spanky, but it’s so quick that it’s hard to call it a problem). I still recommend this set with no hesitation whatsoever, and I know I look forward to seeing all the shorts in the fourth volume!
As I mentioned in my reviews of the first two volumes, ClassicFlix announced (in late 2020) that they had licensed the Little Rascals shorts, and planned to restore the talkies (and the current word is that some of the silents are coming as well). The film elements for many films and shorts originally produced by Hal Roach’s studio have changed hands a number of times over the years, and haven’t been as well preserved as most would hope. ClassicFlix tried a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the restorations for the Little Rascals series, but that ended up falling short. Still, they went through with their plans to restore the shorts, and, much like the first two sets, these shorts look fantastic (some minor damage is still present, but is BARELY noticeable)! This set doesn’t necessarily give any hints as to what film elements were used like the first one did (beyond the comment on the disc case about scanning from original Hal Roach 35mm film elements), but the results speak for themselves (and if you don’t believe me, I included some of the YouTube clips posted by ClassicFlix at the bottom of the post so that you can get a better idea)! Once again, the team at ClassicFlix have put a lot of hard work into restoring these, and I would certainly recommend the third volume (and the first two as well, if you haven’t gotten them already)! The fourth and fifth sets have already been released (and from what I’ve heard, they look at least as good, if not better than this one), with the sixth and final set of talkies scheduled for release next month (June 2022)!
The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 is available on Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. The whole set has a runtime of three hours, thirty minutes.
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