Sons of the Desert (1933):

The definite Laurel & Hardy feature, both an expansion of We Fall Down as well as a compression of sitcom tropes to be mined into the other millennium. The tempo was already delineated by McCarey, so all William A. Seiter has to do is modulate it and add elements of his own -- namely the somber lighting in the opening, readily debunked by the fellas entering the fez-decked fraternity of the title. The oasis is a refuge from domesticity, and Stan is already crying in anticipation to the henpecking as he takes the oath to attend the brotherhood's annual convention the following week. Does he need his wife's permission? "Well, if I didn't ask her, I wouldn't know what she wanted me to do." Ollie insists on man being the king of his castle, but the two are interchangeable as homemade castrati, the theme established along with the main ground for the gags -- a close-up for their names on a wall, and a dolly back to reveal doors to neighboring apartments magically linked on the inside. Stan munches surreptitiously on a wax apple as Ollie's macho balloon gets pricked by wife Mae Busch's poking cutlery; Stan takes his turn playacting at Man at the House, until the missus (Dorothy Christie) wanders in from duck-hunting, shotgun in hand. Slapstick is beautifully constructed around flying pans and a scalding footbath until a veterinarian is called in by the boys to declare Ollie suffering from a "nervous shakedown" and in dire need of a Honolulu stay, really a screen for them to sneak off to their Chicago convention; Charley Chase is there to welcome them with a paddle to the ass, as both a fellow Son of the Desert and frantic Hal Roach one-reeler alum. Trouble is, the boat they were supposed to be in meets a typhoon, leaving the wives distraught at home -- it's like they're "hovering right over us," Busch cries, and so they are, trapped in the attic with all their behavorial sublimity, another fine mess. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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