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) Roundup Featuring… Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released in 2022 featuring either Bob Hope or Dorothy Lamour (or both), whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Due to the slower pace of releases, 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 released in 2022, or at the tail end of March 2023 (whichever happens first). So, let’s dig into some of Bob and Dorothy’s films that have seen a new release in 2022, which so far includes Monsieur Beaucaire (1946) and Where There’s Life (1947)!

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Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wild Poses (1933)

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

(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! This was yet another hilarious short, particularly with Franklin Pangborn playing the photographer (who frequently gets a punch in the nose from Spanky). Of course, as an audience member seeing the other kids messing with the photographer’s equipment, I can’t blame Spanky for not wanting his picture taken. There’s some humor to be found with Emerson Treacy and Gay Seabrook returning to play Spanky’s parents, although Gay Seabrook wears out her welcome a bit with her attempts at humor. Still, this was a fun one, and one that I wouldn’t mind revisiting with some frequency!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hi’-Neighbor! (1934)

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

(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. Hi’-Neighbor proved to be a fun one! Jerry Tucker shows himself to be a good foil to the rest of the Gang, as he inadvertently pushes them to use their ingenuity to make their own fire engine! Of course, watching Spanky (George McFarland) try to help Stymie by “passing him a wheel” is one of the most amusing moments, as are the instances of Jerry getting his comeuppance. The only problem is the use of rear-screen projection during their final race, which takes away from the sense of speed and danger needed. Other than that, this one was fun, and worth seeing!

Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: There are some forces pushing for war between France and Spain (led by Spanish General Don Francisco, as played by Joseph Schildkraut, who seeks to usurp the Spanish throne during wartime). However, the kings of the respective countries are trying to avoid war, and agree to an alliance via royal marriage of Princess Maria of Spain (Marjorie Reynolds) to the French Duke de Chandre (Patric Knowles). In leaving France, de Chandre lets the ex-royal barber Monsieur Beaucaire (Bob Hope) pose as the duke in order to escape being executed. Under this charade, the real duke meets the princess and falls for her (without knowing who she is), while Beaucaire has to deal with the Spanish general’s attempts to assassinate him and prevent the alliance. Can Beaucaire maintain this masquerade and convince his ex-girlfriend Mimi (Joan Caulfield) to come back to him, or will war break out between the two countries?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes
  • Extras: KLSC Bob Hope Promo, Trailers for The Cat And The Canary (1939), Road To Singapore (1940), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Road To Zanzibar (1941), Caught In The Draft (1941), Nothing But The Truth (1941), My Favorite Blonde (1942), Road To Morocco (1942), Road To Utopia (1946), Where There’s Life (1947), The Paleface (1948), Alias Jesse James (1959) and Murder, He Says (1945)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, this transfer comes from a new 2K master. Apparently, there must not have been great elements to work with, as this has been one of the more disappointing transfers of a Universal-owned Bob Hope film to come from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. There’s still a fair amount of scratches, dust and dirt still present (although it’s only really egregious during the opening credits, and improves somewhat afterward). The image is also a bit darker in a lot of places than it seems like it should be. In spite of these issues, it’s not completely unwatchable, and likely to be as good as we can expect for now.

Where There’s Life (1947)

  • Plot Synopses: With the recent end of World War II, the small country of Barovia is looking forward to its first democratic election to replace the monarchy, but a secret society called the Mordia (who hopes to gain power) has attempted to kill Barovian King Hubertus II (William Edmunds). With him dying, the country’s only hope of preventing the Mordia from rising to power before the election is to find the son he had years earlier when he married an American woman (a marriage he was later forced to have annulled). Now, his son is radio announcer Michael Valentine (Bob Hope), who is about to marry Hazel O’Brien (Vera Marshe). A group of Barovian delegates, led by General Katrina Grimovitch (Signe Hasso), attempt to keep Michael alive and bring him to Barovia. But with the Mordia constantly trying to kill Michael, and Hazel’s cop family chasing after him when he misses the wedding, will he be able to survive and help Barovia in their time of need?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Extras: KLSC Bob Hope Promo, Trailers for Where There’s Life (1947), The Cat And The Canary (1939), Road To Singapore (1940), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Road To Zanzibar (1941), Caught In The Draft (1941), Nothing But The Truth (1941), My Favorite Blonde (1942), Road To Morocco (1942), Road To Utopia (1946), The Paleface (1948) and Alias Jesse James (1959)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: When Kino Lorber Studio Classics originally announced that they had licensed this film (before they had a street date), it was said that this transfer was going to be from a 4K scan of the best available elements done by Universal. While that comment was later dropped for the official press release (and the back of the Blu-ray case), I can confirm that this film looks quite good! The picture is highly detailed, and most of the scratches, dirt and debris have been cleaned up (and what remains really isn’t that distracting). So, this release is indeed the best way to see this movie!

My Overall Impressions

Like my post in this series for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, I have eschewed individual comments on these films to reflect on Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour’s presence in these films. At this point in time, I can only claim to look at two films for Bob Hope. Both Monsieur Beaucaire and Where There’s Life feature Bob Hope with his usual screen persona, that of a coward who keeps dishing out quips but manages to be a hero when the chips are down. While neither film has any “Bing-Crosby-cameo-in-a-Bob-Hope-film” appearances, Bing is referenced in both films (okay, it might be pushing it a bit to say that he’s referenced in Monsieur Beaucaire, but who says “bing” instead of “bang” when talking about someone being shot, especially in a Bob Hope film?). For Monsieur Beaucaire, Bob’s big comedic moments (apart from his quips) are his obsession with his girlfriend Mimi due to his worries about the other lotharios in the French court (which actually leads to them gaining an interest) and the final swordfight between him and Joseph Schildkraut’s General Don Francisco. As to Where There’s Life, some of his best moments come when dealing with William Bendix’s Victor O’Brien, the cop brother of Vera Marshe’s Hazel, especially when Bob’s Michael Valentine tries to explain the ridiculous situation that he finds himself in. There are certainly other fun bits in either of these films, but those are among the standouts.

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 (2.):

  1. Where There’s Life (1947)
  2. Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)

When it comes to which of these releases are recommended, this is a slightly tougher decision. For me, both of these films are entertaining and manage to make me laugh and want to come back to them. So, realistically, my recommendation has as much to do with how the transfers for either of these look. And, for that, I easily recommend Where There’s Life. I don’t know whether it boils down to what film elements still exist for either of these two films or just who did the work on these, but Where There’s Life came out looking a lot better, both in terms of detail and being cleaned up. Monsieur Beaucaire just came out looking a lot darker, and therefore not as detailed, making it the harder release to recommend (but I still maintain that the film itself is good enough to overcome the deficits with its transfer).

Other 2022 Release Roundups

Blu-ray Roundup #1

Blu-ray Roundup #2

4K UHD Roundup

Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers Roundup

W. C. Fields Roundup

Bing Crosby Roundup