Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'A Chump at Oxford' is funny but infuriating

A Chump at Oxford (1940)
Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Anita Garvin, Forrest Harvey, Eddie Borden, Wilfred Lucas, and Peter Cushing
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A pair of down-on-their-luck laborers (Laurel and Hardy) receive a scholarship to Oxford as a reward for foiling a bank robbery. They are greeted with cruelty by the snobbish student body until one of them is revealed to be the long-lost Lord Paddington.

"A Chump at Oxford" is the first Laurel and Hardy film I've seen where I remember being irritated. I wanted the collection of entitled, self-important jerks who decide to make their lives Hell when the arrive at Oxford to get what they dished out ten-fold, yet they never seem to be adequately punished to my mind. While Stanley beating them up after he regains his memories as Lord Paddington is a good start, but nowhere near enough--I wanted to see them tossed out of the school, not just out a window.

The rest of the film more than makes up for it though. From the pair's attempt to work as domestics at a fancy mansion through the various bits at Oxford--even if they were mostly brought on by mean tricks--are all very funny. An added bonus for Peter Cushing fans is that you can see him in an early role as one of the cruel students... it's not a big part, but he's there. And he's the only one who doesn't get to wear a silly mustache when the gang is passing themselves of as professors to Stan and Ollie.

An interesting note about this film is that it was originally intended to be released in two versions--a 40-some minute version for the American market an a 60-some minute version for Europe. The first part of the film--where Laurel and Hardy work as servants at a fancy party--was to have been omitted in the American release.

1 comment:

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