austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

For flames live such a little while

[ More stuff about the day to come later. ]

Habeas Corpus is another Laurel and Hardy silent. It opens with ``Professor Padilla'' planning to do some of those weird scientific experiments that scientists in movies are always up to, demanding human corpses on which to experiment. He hires Laurel and Hardy, beggars, to be his resurrection men and off they go to the graveyard. Meanwhile his butler warns the cops that the mad scientist is at it again, and the sheriff sends people out after the mad scientist and also to catch Laurel and Hardy in the act.

Here the do around the graveyard several of the same bits of business they did in Do Detectives Think?, only here it works much better. For one, they have a logical reason not to just hurry past the graveyard entrance: in the other film they're creeped out by somewhere so they stick around. For another, the cops trying to catch Laurel and Hardy are themselves acting so as to make the place more spooky. The internal logic of why they're frightened but sticking around is satisfied.

Well, I'm not precisely sure why the cops are going to any effort to scare Laurel and Hardy. I understand their wanting to stop the mad scientist, but it seems like once they could pinch Our Heroes once the enter the graveyard for trespassing and attempting to steal a body (assuming that was a crime in Los Angeles at the time), not to mention for failing to not be poor; why go to any further effort? The cops hiding, all right; sneezing accidentally and scaring Laurel and Hardy into thinking it's a ghost? Natural enough. Clapping back to impersonate an echo? Less sensible. Making sure the film meets its needed running time can not motivate the characters.

Still, the film works, combining nicely as it does what Larry Gelbart once called the core of funny characters: nighttime and fears.

Trivia: The drop from Schenectady to Cohoes Falls, near Troy, is the steepest part of the Erie Canal. Source: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.

Currently Reading: Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, January 2012, Editor Sheila Williams.


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