Coming Up Shorts! with… The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4

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 1933-1935 that have been released together on disc in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4.

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):

  1. The Kid From Borneo (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 47 seconds)
    • Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba), Dickie (Dickie Moore) and Spanky’s (George McFarland) mother has received a letter from her brother stating that he is in town with a carnival and wants to meet the kids. The kids go to the carnival, but they mistake the “Wild Man From Borneo” (their uncle’s “sideshow attraction”) as their uncle.
  2. Mush And Milk (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 18 seconds)
    • The gang are all stuck at a boarding school run by a cranky old lady (Louise Emmons). Her husband, Cap (Gus Leonard) promises to give the kids a better life when his back pension comes through.
  3. Bedtime Worries (1933) (Length: 20 minutes, 23 seconds)
    • Spanky’s (George McFarland) father (Emerson Treacy) has just been promoted to head shipping clerk, and has decided that Spanky must now sleep on his own. However, Spanky has a lot of trouble getting to sleep on his first night alone.
  4. Wild Poses (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 31 seconds)
    • Spanky’s (George McFarland) parents decide to have his picture taken. However, after listening to the other kids from the Gang who tag along, Spanky refuses to sit for a picture!
  5. Hi’-Neighbor! (1934) (Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)
    • Jerry (Jerry Tucker), the new kid in the neighborhood, has his own small fire engine (and the envy of the Gang). However, he doesn’t want to share it with them, leading them to put together their own fire engine.
  6. For Pete’s Sake! (1934) (Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • Wally (Wally Albright) and the Gang try to fix up a doll for Marianne (Marianne Edwards), but a bully breaks her doll. So the Gang tries to get her a new doll, but they have to deal with the bully and his father to get it.
  7. The First Round-Up (1934) (Length: 18 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • The Gang all decide to go camping at the nearby Cherry Creek. However, when night falls, the kids all start to reconsider the idea.
  8. Honky-Donkey (1934) (Length: 16 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • Little rich boy Wally (Wally Albright) wants to play with some poor kids, and hangs out with the Gang. When they’re chased off the vacant lot that they’re playing on, Wally decides to bring them (and their pet donkey) to his home.
  9. Mike Fright (1934) (Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)
    • The “International Silver String Submarine Band” (that’s the Gang) auditions as part of an amateur radio talent contest against a bunch of other talented kids.
  10. Washee Ironee (1934) (Length: 16 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • Rich boy Waldo (Wally Albright) tries to get into a football game with the Gang, and ends up falling in the mud. His mother is throwing a society party (at which she expects him to play the violin), so the Gang tries to help wash out his clothes.
  11. Mama’s Little Pirate (1935) (Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • Upon listening to his father read about the discovery of pirate treasure in a cave, Spanky (George McFarland) decides to lead the gang on a treasure hunt in a cave. However, his mother is opposed to the idea and orders him not to go.
  12. Shrimps For A Day (1935) (Length: 20 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • The Gang are taken to a party hosted by the sponsor for their orphanage, where an adult couple finds a lamp and wishes to be kids again. They are mistaken for being part of the group of orphans, and are brought back to the orphanage.

With thirty-three talkie shorts from the Our Gang/ The Little Rascals under their belts, the Hal Roach series continued to make changes as they kept plugging along. Longtime Our Gang director Robert McGowan (who had been with the series essentially since the beginning) had tired of doing the series and wanted to leave for a few years, but his departure kept getting delayed as the studio couldn’t come up with a replacement for him. The Hal Roach studio tried to change up the series, including shrinking the cast down to a small handful to appease McGowan (with Dickie Moore, Bobby “Wheezer” Hutchins and Dorothy DeBorba leaving after Mush And Milk), but McGowan finally had enough and left after directing Wild Poses. As a result, the series went on hiatus for four months. When they came back, they had a new director (Gus Meins) and several new cast members, including Wally Albright (who only lasted for a handful of shorts), Scotty Beckett and Billie Thomas (“Buckwheat”).

As I said in my previous reviews of Volume 1 ( which contained the shorts 1929’s Small Talk through 1930’s A Tough Winter), Volume 2 (1930’s Pups Is Pups through 1931’s Dogs Is Dogs) and Volume 3 (1932’s Readin’ And Writin’ through 1933’s Forgotten Babies), these shorts are still new to me. For me, the shorts included in this fourth volume continued to be as much fun (if not more!) as the earlier talkie shorts. George “Spanky” McFarland continues to be the main appeal here, and the two shorts that showcase him (Bedtime Worries and Wild Poses) left me laughing pretty steadily. Of course, the introduction of Scotty Beckett really added something as well, essentially making the two of them a comedy team that worked quite effectively (especially in The First Round-Up). Mike Fright, Mama’s Little Pirate and Shrimps For A Day also left me in stitches throughout, making them worth seeing again and again! Not every short in this set is perfect, as The Kid From Borneo and Washee Ironee in particular are both dated in some of their stereotyped depictions. Still, the rest of the set more than makes up for it, which makes this fourth volume of Our Gang shorts highly recommended in my book (and I certainly look forward to seeing more with the fifth volume)!

As I mentioned in my reviews of the earlier volumes, ClassicFlix announced (in late 2020) that they had licensed the Little Rascals shorts, and planned to restore the talkies (and the silents if the talkies sold well enough, which it sounds like they have). 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 three 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 this fourth volume (plus the first three as well, if you haven’t gotten them already)! With the fifth and sixth sets already released (thus completing all the talkies before MGM took over the series), we only await the arrival of the silents in 2023 (some of which will be on Blu-ray while others will be DVD-only due to the quality of the available elements)! In the meantime, there will also be The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection Centennial Edition on Blu-ray (or DVD) from ClassicFlix. This set will include all the talkie shorts included in the six volumes (although it will be condensed onto five discs instead of six) plus a bonus disc of extras (that bonus disc will also be available separately, and will come with a six-disc box for all those that previously bought the individual volumes, although it won’t be available through Amazon until after its release date).

The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 is available on Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. The whole set has a runtime of three hours, thirty-eight minutes.

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Blu-ray Roundup #2

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m back to focusing on titles released on the Blu-ray format in 2022. Since it is focused on Blu-ray releases not related to any specific star or screen team (which means the rate of releases is much faster), I will not be updating this one (except to add links to full reviews if and when they are reviewed later on). So, let’s dig into the movies For Me And My Gal (1942), The Clock (1945), Adventures Of Don Juan (1948) and Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)!

Remember, as an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Note: Due to the fact that I’ve reviewed For Me And My Gal (1942) previously, I have added one of my “Coming Up Shorts!” comments to that review.

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The First Round-Up (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 46 seconds)

The Gang all decide to go camping at the nearby Cherry Creek. However, when night falls, the kids all start to reconsider the idea. I’ve been enjoying some of the previous shorts from the Our Gang series, but this one was REALLY entertaining! Plain and simple, the highlights of this short all have to do with Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett), especially as they continually prove to be smarter than the older kids (who didn’t want them tagging along). They definitely brought the humor here, and made it one that I definitely want to return to frequently!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Honky-Donkey (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 42 seconds)

Little rich boy Wally (Wally Albright) wants to play with some poor kids, and hangs out with the Gang. When they’re chased off the vacant lot that they’re playing on, Wally decides to bring them (and their pet donkey) to his home. This was yet another entertaining short! Most of the fun centers around the donkey, who chases after anybody when they sneeze, but sits when they hear a bell. Of course, Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett) add to the fun, trying to help stop the donkey with an alarm clock while otherwise commenting on everything going on. It may be something of a one-joke short the way they use the donkey, but they keep it fresh enough that I certainly would willingly sit through this one again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mike Fright (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)

The “International Silver String Submarine Band” (that’s the Gang) auditions as part of an amateur radio talent contest against a bunch of other talented kids. Plain and simple, this one was VERY FUNNY!! Much of the humor was in the kids loudly carrying around all their instruments and all the mechanical trouble they caused with the microphone. Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett) still seem to be the funniest two of the bunch, and get a lot of one-liners that kept me in stitches. I would say that this is one of the best shorts from the fourth volume of Our Gang talkies, and I would readily recommend it!

For Me And My Gal (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: In the small town of Clifton Junction, Iowa, in 1916, two different vaudevillian acts meet at the same theatre. Dancer Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly) makes an offer to Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) (who is part of a troupe led by Jimmy Metcalfe, played by George Murphy) to work together as a song-and-dance team. She accepts, but their rise to fame is slow (much slower than Harry wanted). The two fall for each other, but they make the mutual decision to wait for marriage until they can make it to the top, the Palace Theater in New York City. When they are finally signed to appear there, Harry gets his draft notice. Will they be able to play the Palace (and be a married couple), or will the war put an end to their plans?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Commentary by historian John Fricke; MGM shorts La Fiesta De Santa Barbara (1935) and Every Sunday (1936); Outtake Musical numbers: Three Cheers For The Yanks and For Me And My Gal Deleted Finale; Screen Guild Players For Me And My Gal with Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Dick Powell; Leo Is On The Air Radio Promo and Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating (after Blu-ray): 10/10 (previously 9/10)
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: I’ve seen this one many times, and always enjoy coming back to it! Judy Garland and Gene Kelly (in his film debut) prove that they have great chemistry in their first outing together. The film helps show the journey that some vaudevillians had to go through on their quest to get to the Palace Theater in New York City, helped by some authentic music of the era. The dances may not be on the level that Gene Kelly was later known for, but they’re still entertaining. I had a high enough opinion of the film to recommend it on DVD (see original review here), and it’s even more fun on Blu-ray!
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the best available preservation elements. Quite simply stated, it’s a typical (great looking) Warner Archive release. The detail is much improved over the previously available DVD, and the picture has been cleaned up of all scratches, dust and debris. Otherwise translated, the Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection is the way to go when seeing this movie now!

The Clock (1945)

  • Plot Synopses: Corporal Joe Allen (Robert Walker) is on leave for two days and has just arrived in New York City via train. He knows nobody there, until he accidentally trips Alice Mayberry (Judy Garland), breaking her heel. He helps her get it repaired, and they spend some time together. Alice has to leave, but they agree to meet later for a date. As they spend more time together having various adventures, they start growing closer. With Joe’s leave quickly coming to an end, will they go their separate ways, or will they find a way to stay together?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Extras: Pete Smith Specialty Short: Hollywood Scout (1945), Classic Tex Avery Cartoon: The Screwy Truant (1945), Audio-only Lux Radio Theater Adaptation with John Hodiak and Judy Garland and Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: This was my first time seeing this Judy Garland film, and it’s one that I enjoyed! The film mainly focuses on the relationship between Judy’s Alice Mayberry and Robert Walker’s Corporal Joe Allen, and their chemistry together proves to be good enough to carry the film! We see them go from being complete strangers to falling in love as they have a whole bunch of adventures together over a period of two days. Some of those episodes are fun, some are romantic, and some are heartbreaking. This movie has it all (even if it is a non-musical role for Judy), which makes it well worth seeing!
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the best available preservation elements. It’s from Warner Archive, so you know it looks great! The picture has been cleaned up of scratches, dust and debris, and really shows off the detail. Highly recommended!

Adventures Of Don Juan (1948)

  • Plot Synopses: When he is caught one too many times by irate husbands/potential suitors, Don Juan de Maraña (Errol Flynn) is deported back to Spain. There, it is hoped that he will reform himself in the service of Queen Margaret (Vivica Lindfors), who is trying to avert a war between Spain and England. Trouble has arisen in Spain due to the Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas), who has been trying to control the Spanish King Philip III (Romney Brent) and lead the countries into war. Much to the duke’s annoyance, Don Juan continues to get in his way. Eventually, it is discovered that the duke has kidnapped the Spanish ambassador and is trying to torture him to find out where the ambassador has hidden some money that he is holding for the queen. This forces the duke out of the shadows as he attempts to more openly usurp control. Can Don Juan stop him, or will the duke successfully take over the country?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes
  • Extras: Commentary by Director Vincent Sherman and Historian Rudy Behlmer; Warner Night At The Movies: Newsreel, Joe McDoakes Short So You Want To Be On The Radio (1948), Warner Bros. Short Calgary Stampede (1948), Warner Bros. Cartoon Hare Splitter (1948); Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: This was a new Errol Flynn film for me, and I very much enjoyed it! I can’t deny, the film does remind me strongly of the far superior The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) via a score that feels similar, and various plot points (not to mention some brief footage borrowed from that film and 1939’s The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex). Errol Flynn is definitely showing his age here (especially since it was his first swashbuckler in nearly a decade), but he acquits himself very well in a very tailor-made role for him. The swordfights are still thrilling to see, especially the inevitable duel between Flynn’s Don Juan and Robert Douglas’ Duke de Lorca. It’s not Errol Flynn at his absolute best, but it’s still a very entertaining swashbuckler made better by his presence (and therefore recommended)!
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the nitrate Technicolor negatives. It’s from Warner Archive, and it’s a 3-strip Technicolor film. That pretty much says it all, as the transfer really brings out the color, and it’s been cleaned up of all scratches, dust and debris. So, if you like this film, the Blu-ray is indeed the way to go!

Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

  • Plot Synopses: Jack (Lou Costello) has been tasked with babysitting an obnoxious little boy (David Stollery) and attempts to read him the story of Jack And The Beanstalk (although the kid ends up reading to him). As Jack imagines the story, he places himself in the role of the titular Jack, who sells his family cow to local butcher Mr. Dinklepuss (Bud Abbott) in exchange for some “magic beans.” When planted, the beans turn into a very tall beanstalk that reaches to the skies. Jack and Mr. Dinklepuss climb the beanstalk to go rescue the prince (James Alexander) and princess (Shaye Cogan) along with other objects of value that have been stolen by the giant (Buddy Baer). Will they succeed in their mission, or will the giant win out?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Extras: Newly Recorded Introduction By Lou’s Youngest Daughter, Chris Costello; Commentary by Abbott and Costello expert Ron Palumbo, with recollections from Jack And The Beanstalk co-star David Stollery; newly discovered footage of Abbott and Costello performing “Who’s on First” on December 2, 1940; Imperfect Spectrum: A Brief History of Cinecolor by Jack Theakston; Climbing The Scales: The Music Of Jack And The Beanstalk by Ray Fiola; Beanstalk Ballyhoo by Ron Palumbo; Cutting Down the Beanstalk by Ron Palumbo; Abbott And Costello Meet the Creature – Live TV Appearance from February, 1954; Rudy Vallee radio sketch (February, 1945) with photo gallery by Shane Fleming; Restoration Demo; Behind The Scenes photo gallery by Chip Ordway with 1952 children’s recording; Publicity Materials photo gallery by Chip Ordway; Abbott And Costello Trailer Rarities = 18 original “Coming Attraction” previews including Jack And The Beanstalk; Fireman Save My Child trailer and commentaries by 3-D expert Mike Ballew or Ron Palumbo; ClassicFlix Trailers for A Night In Casablanca (1946), Abbott And Costello TV Show: Mustard, The Little Rascals Vol. 4, Merrily We Live (1938), Zenobia (1939)
  • Label: ClassicFlix
  • My Rating: 7/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: I’ve seen Jack And The Beanstalk a number of times over the years, and, even though I consider it one of the lesser Abbott and Costello films, I still like to see it every now and then. My biggest problems with the film are with its less than memorable music (although the songs “I Fear Nothing” and the title song are at least decent), the less-than-polished dancing and the less-than-stellar performances of James Alexander and Shaye Cogan as the film’s central romance. Bud and Lou really don’t do any of their comedy routines here and instead try more to appeal to kids (and they do well enough that they still manage to be funny in the process). Of course, doing the film in a manner that evokes thoughts of the far superior The Wizard Of Oz (1939) with the opening and closing in sepia-tone while the rest of the film is in (SuperCine)color doesn’t exactly do it any favors either. Still, it’s fun for what it is, an Abbott and Costello movie in color (the only other one is the same year’s Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd) and it’s worth giving a chance (especially now that it’s been restored)!
    • On The Transfer: This transfer comes from a 4K scan from 35mm SuperCinecolor elements. The 3-D Film Archive has painstakingly restored this film to get it looking as close to how it should, making the color look much better than it has in a long time, and allowing us to enjoy the opening and closing in its original sepia-tone. The vast majority of scratches, dust and other debris have been cleaned up here. It should be noted here that, for the color section of the film, it is a bit grainier than some might expect. This is due to the original film elements having disappeared when the film was sold off back in 1959 (long before it became public domain), and the best available elements are several generations away from that (meaning they are much grainier). As a result, we have the choice of a grainier picture that shows off the detail, or a picture with the grain removed (and the detail removed with it). I believe they made the right choice, making this the best release this film has seen in a long time (if you want the extras, don’t wait too long to get it, as it is a limited edition that will go out of print soon, although a barebones release may happen later on, depending on how this one sells)!

My Overall Impressions

Well, now that I’ve commented on these four films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (4.)

  1. (tie) For Me And My Gal (1942)
  1. (tie) The Clock (1945)
  1. Adventures Of Don Juan (1948)
  1. Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

When you get down to it, this is a group of films in which I really have no hesitation in recommending each release, especially in terms of the transfer. I think that Jack And The Beanstalk (1952) has the weakest one, if only because the best available elements are several generations away from the original camera negative, which made it much grainier than some might like. I think the film itself is the weakest, but the release more than makes up for it with nearly two and a half hours of extras (making it the best release of this bunch from that perspective). Do keep in mind that, like I said before, it’s a limited edition which is likely to sell out soon, and if it comes back in print after that, it is very likely that it will only be a barebones release (so if you want those extras, get this one now). The other three releases really are on equal ground as far as their transfers go, as they all look exceptionally great. I think that, as a film, Adventures Of Don Juan (1948) is weaker than either of the two Judy Garland films, but it’s still an entertaining outing for Errol Flynn. And as for For Me And My Gal (1942) and The Clock (1945)? It really is a tie in my opinion, as both are absolutely wonderful films worth seeing. And that, my friends, is what I think of this group of new releases on Blu-ray!