Way Out West (James W. horne / U.S., 1937):

Out of the household and into the frontier for Laurel and Hardy, the duo making their way to rowdy frontier burg Brushwood Gulch, Ollie slumbering on a blanket dragged by their mule until Stan leads the crossing of a stream. It Happened One Night figures in their stagecoach ride into town, where they're met by mustache-chewing sheriff Stanley Fields and, less threateningly, by the Avalon Boys, who provide the crooning accompaniment for L & H's casually sublime soft-shoe number in front of rear projection shot of a bustling Western street. Into the saloon and on with the plot -- they've come to deliver the mine deed to poor Rosita Lawrence, the daughter of a late prospector, but the real gold-diggers are shifty owner James Finlayson and Sharon Lynn, his headlining vixen. Finlayson takes a breather from doing double-takes to pass Lynn off as the heiress, and the boys are fleeced of the document, extracted by the big blonde from under the shirt of a supremely ticklish Stan; Ollie forces Stan to eat his hat as punishment, which he does, sobbing before pulling out napkins and saltshakers. James W. Horne keeps the pace calm, the better for the gags to be ceremoniously built, layer by layer, before his camera, nothing up their sleeves -- elaborate routines whipped around the removal of a pendant from around Ollie's neck, a holey old shoe lined with leathery meat, Ollie lifted up to Finlayson's window via a pulley. Elsewhere, Ollie crashes through solid and liquid surfaces, Stan improvises a lighter out of his thumb, and both warble "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (Stan's basso profundo throws Ollie off, so a mallet blow to the head brings it down to a frilly soprano). The plot is pantomimed behind a door for the heroine's benefit, although the indigenous surrealism of this ideal comedy is best seen firsthand: as the noggin of the trapped Hardy stretches and rotates, the mule in the bedroom can come from Wrong Again or L'Age d'Or. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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