JL: Never underestimate the influence of French playwright Emile Zola on American slapstick comedy (this won't take long, I promise). Zola was the leading advocate of the naturalistic movement in the drama of the late 19th-early 20th centuries; a drama which, according to Zola, "should expose social infection in all its ugliness." For the first time in recorded history, plays and novels dealt with life among the lower classes, poverty, disease, filthy living conditions...in general, your basic slice-of-life human misery and suffering kind of stuff. By virtue of such subject matter becoming (semi-) accepted fare, comedy adopted the cruder aspects of naturalism and allowed it to flourish during the silent film era. Uninitiated modern audiences tend to be shocked at the crudeness of early slapstick, and nowhere is early slapstick crudeness more evident than in With Love and Hisses.
The most memorable gags in this film consist of filthy piles of garbage, sweaty guys with body odor, a sweaty guy with body odor making a garlic-cheese-pepper sandwich, sweaty guys in their underwear sticking their butts in people's faces, and naked sweaty guys running through mud to evade a skunk. True, there's more running time devoted to some good-but-typical army gags with Finlayson as the befuddled captain and Laurel as the dimwitted private who breaks his gun and befuddles Finlayson. But it's the raunchy stuff that makes this one memorable. And I don't know if that's a good thing or not.
JB: With Love and Hisses is a slight army comedy, no more, no less. Stan is in what I call his "pixie" mode, which is an early version of Stanley, halfway between what he was in his solo films and what he was later to become in the full-fledged Laurel and Hardy movies. The best part of the film is standard army drill stuff, the kind of thing the Boys would return to in Beau Hunks, THE FLYING DEUCES and other films. All comedians made Army comedies --- this was the Boys' earliest..
Copyright © 2012 John Larrabee, John V. Brennan