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) 4K UHD Roundup

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released on the 4K UHD format in 2022. Due to the slower pace of releases on the format (which is even slower when you account for the number of films that actually appeal to me), I will be starting out with two films, and updating this post as I see more (with the updates showing up on the 2022 Releases page). This post will be completed when I have seen all of the titles that I wanted that were released in 2022, or at the tail end of March 2023 (whichever happens first). So, let’s dig into some of the films that have been released on 4K UHD, starting with Singin’ In The Rain (1952) and West Side Story (2021)!

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 had already used a short from a different set on my original review of Singin’ In The Rain (1952), I will not be adding another one on that post or this one.

Update: On 11/16/2022, comments were added on the recent 4K UHD release of Holiday Inn (1942). Due to there being a previously written review for that film, the “Coming Up Shorts!” comments were added to that review.

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Kid From Borneo (1933)

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

(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. This one is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s pretty good. The short’s main problem is the characterization of the “Wild Man From Borneo” (who is a black man), but the short also makes sure to tell us that he is really not a threat (but the kids themselves certainly don’t know that). One of the short’s more amusing moments is when Spanky is cornered, and feeds this bottomless pit of a man everything in the icebox. It’s not a great short, but it certainly provided a few good laughs throughout.

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: It’s a wonderful Christmas classic (obviously, it covers more than one holiday, but everybody remembers this film for its introduction of the song “White Christmas,” and for good reason)! Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire team up for the first time onscreen, with the resulting fun of “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing” as the two of them try (and fail) to one-up each other in romance! Besides the two aforementioned songs, we also have some other fun Irving Berlin tunes including “Easter Parade” and “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” The only real complaint about the film is the blackface number set to the song “Abraham.” The story may not be that great, but, apart from the blackface issues, this is a well-regarded film for good reason, and certainly recommended! If you need to read more on the film, check out my original review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

  • Plot Synopses: Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are two of the biggest silent film stars in Hollywood. However, an encounter with one of his fans (Kathy Selden, as played by Debbie Reynolds) has left Don questioning whether he really can act. And now he really needs to prove that he can, as sound has come to the movies! He’s got the support of Kathy and his old friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), but Lina proves to be a problem since she speaks with a heavy accent (not to mention the fact that she can’t sing or dance). Will Don and Lina’s new sound film prove to be a hit with audiences, or a flop?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes
  • Extras (on the 4K disc): Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann and Rudy Behmer; Musical Numbers
  • Extras (on the included 2012 Blu-ray): Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann and Rudy Behmer; Singin’ In The Rain: Raining on a New Generation, Jukebox, Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Home Video
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: The classic music of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. Gene Kelly’s iconic dance in the rain to the title tune. Donald O’Connor’s pratfall-filled dance to “Make ‘Em Laugh.” All the comedy and the romance a film could need. What more needs to be said? (If more does need to be said, please read my original full review here).
    • On The Transfer: I had always thought that the earlier Blu-ray (from 2012) looked pretty good, but the new UHD blows it out of the water! The resolution is certainly much improved, allowing us to see better detail in the image (and all this from a film whose original camera negative was mostly destroyed, save for one reel, in the infamous 1978 Eastman House fire, and which has relied mostly on dupe negatives ever since). The colors are much improved by the HDR, toned down from the slightly yellowish image on the Blu-ray and DVD (and, according to the experts on the subject that I’ve read, the UHD is closer to being what it is supposed to look like). Of course, if you’re looking to “future-proof” this film, then do know that the Blu-ray included with the UHD is still the 2012 release, and not a remastered Blu-ray with a new transfer (which admittedly does allow you to see just how different the UHD is from the older Blu-ray). I’ll certainly recommend the 4K UHD quite heartily as the best way to enjoy this wonderful classic!

West Side Story (2021)

  • Plot Synopses: In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Jets are fighting for control of their territory with the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. The Jets’ former leader, Tony (Ansel Elgort), is trying to stay out of it, but he finds himself drawn in when he falls for Maria (Rachel Zegler), the sister of the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo (David Alvarez). This really angers Bernardo, pushing the Jets and the Sharks into a big all-out fight, with control of their territory at stake. Neither Maria nor Tony nor the police want this to happen. But, with all the hatred going around, can they stop the rumble before any blood is shed?
  • Film Length: 2 hours, 36 minutes
  • Extras (only on the included Blu-ray): The Stories of West Side Story, The Songs
  • Label: 20th Century Studios/Disney
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Plain and simple, I did not expect to like this version since I essentially hated the 1961 film. Boy, did that opinion prove to be wrong! The cast did right by their roles. The music and dancing proved to be very entertaining and memorable! Even the cinematography left an imprint on me! I would go so far as to argue that this may be the best film musical I’ve seen made within my own lifetime (if not the best movie made within my own lifetime, it’s so enjoyable)!
    • On The Transfer: I thought the accompanying Blu-ray for this film looked pretty good, but the 4K UHD blows it out of the water! The detail is exquisite and the color pops, especially for the extremely colorful “America” song and dance! The transfer really shows off the excellent cinematography here! A highly recommended release!

My Overall Impressions

Well, now that I’ve commented on both of these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (3.):

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
  2. West Side Story (2021)
  3. Holiday Inn (1942)

Plain and simple, I think that Singin’ In The Rain is the better film of these three. It’s been a beloved classic for a long time (for good reason!), so it’s an easy choice. I do think that, as far as the 4K UHD releases go, West Side Story looks better, but I would also say that that has to do with modern filming technology which allows it to have much better detail combined with the fact that the original camera negative for Singin’ In The Rain no longer survives (but, as I said, that film still looks great on the 4K UHD, too). That being said, West Side Story is an easy recommendation for me as well. I enjoyed the film a lot (far more than I can say about the earlier 1961 film, for which I had the completely opposite reaction). I’ll give Singin’ In The Rain the edge here, but I can’t deny that both are wonderful films, and certainly deserve to be seen in the best possible format! Holiday Inn is another story. As to the movie itself? I would highly recommend it (maybe not as much as the other two films here, but it’s still a well regarded classic). However, as this is concerning the new 4K UHD release, Holiday Inn is easily the weakest of the bunch, with a poor transfer that leaves me recommending that you NOT look at the 4K, and instead go with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

*Singin’ In The Rain (1952) = ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

**West Side Story (2021) = ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

***West Side Story (2021) = ranked #6 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022