THE BIG NOISE(1944)
Written December 1943. Filmed April 1944. Released by 20th Century Fox, August 1944. Produced by Sol M. Wurtzel. Directed by Malcolm St. Clair.
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Arthur Space, Bobby Blake.
STORY:Janitors Laurel and Hardy get themselves hired as detectives by an eccentric and exceedingly annoying inventor. Their mission: guard over "The Big Noise", a new explosive powerful enough to blow up a city, or at least stock footage of a cliffside. After several complications and remakes of their earlier films, they wind up dropping said bomb on a Japanese submarine.
my original commentary for this film, I was admittedly rather harsh,
having had it drummed into me that THE BIG NOISE was the worst of all
Laurel and Hardy films by reviews in THE FILMS OF LAUREL AND
HARDY, THE 50 WORST MOVIES OF ALL TIME and others sources. And my own
memories of it were at least 20 years old. But now I have had a chance
to see it again, and view it with a fresh eye.
It still isn't a great film. But it is a hell of a lot better than A HAUNTING WE WILL GO or their next film NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. It is clear that somebody, somewhere, was trying to make a decent film. The script is a veritable Laurel and Hardy retrospective, reviving bits and pieces from some of their best films and (inevitably), some of their worst.
There are bits and pieces of Habeus Corpus, Wrong Again, Oliver the Eighth, Berth Marks, BLOCK-HEADS, THE FLYING DEUCES, and others. Some of the borrowed material falls flat, but an upper berth scene, lifted from Berth Marks, works well, with Jack Norton filling in nicely for what would have been an Arthur Houseman role back in the Roach days. Other borrowed bits also play well, and for the first time in what seems like ages, Babe is back to doing reactions straight into the camera throughout the whole film.
You may find a handful of genuine laughs in THE BIG NOISE, but you will also find moments that make you weep (I still don't think the Roach Laurel and Hardy would intentionally drop a bomb on anyone, even during wartime.) The supporting cast is instantly forgettable except for the very annoying future TV star Bobby Blake, but the background music is probably the best of any of their final efforts, and the film ends on a pleasant image of Stan playing "Mairzy Doats" on a concertina while a school of fish dance on top of the water.
THE BIG NOISE is better than its reputation, but given that reputation, it would almost have to be.