This is the first of two Robert Youngson films devoted to "The Boys" and it is a satisfying feast of some of their funniest pre-sound moments. As with all of Youngson's films, the sometimes jokey narration can be grating and the throwaway historical tidbits often come at a time when you would rather be watching the screen than listening to a narrator. But these are minor complaints when you stop to consider that Youngson was presenting mass movie audiences to classic silent comedy footage that hadn't been seen in years. Along with William K. Everson's The Films of Laurel and Hardy, Youngson's silent movie compilations were instrumental in reviving Laurel and Hardy's reputation and popularity.
Youngson uses generous footage from the silent shorts From Soup to Nuts, Putting Pants on Philip, The Finishing Touch, Liberty and several other shorts to provide a superb overview of the graceful artistry of L&H during the silent years. He supplements the L&H footage with amusing excerpts from films by two other Hal Roach comedians, Charlie Chase and Max Davidson. The film climaxes with "The Great Pie Fight" from Laurel and Hardy's The Battle of the Century. Even today, almost 80 years later, all of this footage still works wonders. Ollie falling face first into a gooey cake, three times in the same short, was funny eight decades ago and will be funny eight decades from now.
Youngson would follow up with a nearly-as-enjoyable sequel titled THE FURTHER PERILS OF LAUREL AND HARDY and one final film, 4 CLOWNS (Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and Charley Chase), before his career as silent-movie revivalist came to an end. Is it too sad to predict that it will be a long time, if ever, before another one of those comes along? ½- JB