DVD Verdict
Home About News Blu-ray DVD Reviews Upcoming DVD Releases Contest Podcasts Forums Judges Contact  

Case Number 03798: Small Claims Court

Buy The Little Rascals, Volumes 1 And 2 at Amazon

The Little Rascals, Volumes 1 And 2

Artisan // 1937 // 138 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // January 8th, 2004

• View Chief Justice Stailey's Dossier
• E-mail Chief Justice Stailey
• Printer Friendly Review


Every purchase you make through these Amazon links supports DVD Verdict's reviewing efforts. Thank you!




 

All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Little Rascals Collection (published November 29th, 2004), The Little Rascals Volumes 1 And 2 (published September 20th, 2000), and The Little Rascals, Volumes 3 And 4 (published January 8th, 2004) are also available.

The Charge

Rare and remastered, The Little Rascals are back in all their original glory!

The Case

In 1912, a young man named Hal Roach made his way to Los Angeles, answering an ad looking for experienced cowboys to serve as technical advisors on western films being made at Universal. In two short years, Roach rode and roped his way from peon to producer to poobah of his own production studio. During the hey day of silent films, Hal Roach was the man with the Midas touch, launching or solidifying the careers of such screen legends as Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, Leo McCarey, Frank Capra, Jean Harlow, Fay Wray, and Boris Karloff. While much of his early success came in the form of short subjects, people often forget Roach was the man behind some of Hollywood's most beloved and respected feature films such as Topper, One Million B.C., and Of Mice and Men.

Despite all this success, Roach will be most remembered for his Our Gang comedies. As evidenced by the continued popularity of shows like America's Funniest Home Videos, there is something mesmerizing about children interacting with each other. Roach capitalized on this concept creating 221 comedic shorts between 1922 and 1944, featuring an ever-changing ensemble of his Little Rascals.

The first 66 films were silent shorts done in collaboration with Pathe studios. From there, Roach moved the franchise over to MGM and their new short subject department, where the next 22 films were produced. With the advent of talkies in the late 1920s, Roach jumped on the new technology. From the release of Small Talk in 1929, the Rascals now had voices that would never be silenced. Three decades of work from such talented young actors as Mickey Daniels, Joe Cobb, Jackie Cooper, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Norman "Chubby" Chaney, Dorothy DeBorba, Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, Mary Ann Jackson, Dickie Moore, George "Spanky" McFarland, Scotty Beckett, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas, Tommy Bond, Eugene "Porky" Lee, and Darla Hood have left an indelible imprint on both Hollywood and American pop culture.

This collection of eight short films, along with an introduction from Rascals scholar Leonard Maltin, is actually a repackaging of the Cabin Fever remastered VHS series released during the early to mid '90s. While the Cabin Fever videos provided more in-depth background on the series and its stars, Artisan has compiled a nice complement of shorts to serve as both a sampler for the uninitiated and a fond remembrance for longtime fans.

Fly My Kite (1931, MGM)
Directed by Robert McGowan. Featuring Farina, Chubby, Wheezer, Mary Ann, Stymie, Dorothy, and Pete the Pup.
Grandma (Margaret Mann) is being forced into a nursing home by her loathsome son-in-law, Dan (James Mason). However, when the Imperial Steel Company writes to inform her of a stock windfall in her possession, Dan intercepts the letter and does everything in his power to cash in before she finds out. It's up to the kids to stop Dirty Dan and keep Grandma right where she belongs. This is classic Rascals, complete with dastardly bad guys, knock down drag out fight sequences, and other screwball zaniness.
Grade: A

Honky Donkey (1934, MGM)
Directed by Gus Meins. Featuring Stymie, Spanky, Scotty, Tommy, and Wally Albright.
Rich boy Wally is running errands in the city with his chauffeur (Don Barclay) when he spots a group of kids taking turns riding a donkey in a vacant lot. When a neighbor chases the kids away, Wally volunteers to let the kids use his house to play, in exchange for a ride. All hell breaks loose when mother gets home and finds her house overrun with street kids and a temperamental jackass. Another Rascals classic, this one features running commentary by the younger, more conscientious observers Spanky and Scotty (filmdom's first Statler and Waldorf), and a hilariously effeminate performance by Barclay. In fact, this is one film where the kids take a backseat to the adults, both literally and figuratively.
Grade: B+

Beginner's Luck (1935, MGM)
Directed by Gus Meins. Featuring Spanky, Scotty, Buckwheat.
Spanky's mother (Kitty Kelly) is determined to make him a star, by entering a local amateur contest—performing his interpretation of the "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" monologue from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in full Roman regalia. To put an end to his mother's obsession, Spanky enlists the help of the gang to sabotage his performance. But when a young female co-contestant enchants Spanky backstage, he becomes determined to win and give her the prize money. Unfortunately, the gang never gets the message and Spanky must battle an unruly audience to make it through. This is a Rascals jewel, spotlighting an exceptional turn by McFarland, a scene stealing performance by the contest's musical director (James Morton), and the debut of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and real-life brother Harold as contestants Tom and Jerry, The Arizona Nightingales.
Grade: A+

Reunion in Rhythm (1937, MGM)
Directed by Gordon Douglas. Featuring Spanky, Darla, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Porky, and Rascals alumni Mickey Daniels, Joe Cobb, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, and Mary Kornman.
In honor of the Adams Grammar School reunion, the gang stages a Broadway Follies show to entertain the assembled crowd. How any group of elementary school children could create such elaborate sets, costumes, and choreography is beyond me—but this is show biz. While Buckwheat does everything in his power to steal the show, it's Spanky's version of "Broadway Rhythm" and Alfalfa's "I'm Through with Love" that brings the crowd to its feet. While a favorite to many, I find this film to be shallow and unimpressive. As the gang got older and the production values increased, the series lost its charm.
Grade: D

Hook and Ladder (1932, MGM)
Directed by Robert McGowan. Featuring Dickie, Spanky, Stymie, Dorothy, and Pete the Pup.
The gang has decided to become volunteer firemen and create their own hook and ladder company, complete with a fully operational firehouse and two fire trucks. When a fire is spotted and the call goes out, our pint-sized heroes spring into action, only to be turned away at the scene by the real fire department. Yet on the way home, they spot another fire. With no fire fighters in sight, our Rascals rise to the occasion and battle the blaze until help arrives. Another jewel in the Our Gang crown, this short features an enigmatic baby Spanky and the Rube Goldberg-like contraptions the Rascals became famous for.
Grade: A+

The First Round-Up (1934, MGM)
Directed by Gus Meins. Featuring Wally Albright, Stymie, Spanky, Scotty, Tommy, and Pete the Pup.
Packing up for an arduous camping adventure, the gang leaves behind the younger, less experienced Spanky and Scotty. Arriving at Cherry Creek, following a difficult two-mile trek, they are greeted by our two sarcastic commentators wondering "What took you so long?" Shunned again, Spanky and Scotty are content to sit back and watch the gang self-destruct in frustration and fright. Yet another great film for fans of the dynamic duo, and one of the few I had never seen.
Grade: B+

Teacher's Beau (1935, MGM)
Directed by Gus Meins. Featuring Spanky, Scotty, Alfalfa, Stymie, and Buckwheat.
A case of misinterpretation and mistaken identity lands the gang in hot water. When the kids are told their teacher (Arletta Duncan) is getting married and a new teacher will arrive in the fall, they plot to derail the wedding. Failing to realize it's their current teacher who will return with a new last name, their plan backfires. This is a premise we've seen before and with execution that falls short of the mark. Unfortunately, it serves as a disappointing curtain call for Matthew "Stymie" Beard, who had begun to fade into the background with the emergence of McFarland.
Grade: D

Hearts are Thumps (1937, MGM)
Directed by Gordon Douglas. Featuring Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Porky, Waldo, and Darla.
It's Valentine's Day and the guys decide to buck the system by forming the "He-Man Woman Haters Club." Too bad for Alfalfa, who falls head over heels for Darla. Now he must woo his beloved away from the prying eyes of his fellow club members. While the He-Man club makes several more appearances throughout the series, most are more entertaining. This is a one-track Alfalfa episode, complete with goofy gags set in motion by Spanky, and punctuated by reaction shots from Darla. By this point, the series was running out of steam and genuine laughs were hard to come by.
Grade: C-

Presented in disappointing 1.33:1 full frame format, many of the films suffer from decades of degradation. Credit Cabin Fever for going through the painstaking process of cleaning up these prints as best they could, but don't expect miracles. The blacks are soft, as one might expect, and the grayscale variations often become troublesome to differentiate. Again, these are classic films preserved for posterity but far from the DVD standards most aficionados have become accustomed to. Observe and judge them for what they are and not what you might expect them to be. There's not much to be done with the mono audio tracks, but in a strange way it somehow enhances the charm of the series. The only bonus materials included are an introduction by Leonard Maltin, an unrelated documentary on movie dogs interwoven with clips of Pete the Pup, and a cast photo gallery. While somewhat informative, they do little to enhance the package. At $14.98, this is welcome addition to any Rascals collection. However, if you already own the entire Cabin Fever VHS series, save your money for a more definitive DVD release. This court is now adjourned.

Give us your feedback!

Did we give The Little Rascals, Volumes 1 And 2 a fair trial? yes / no

Share This Review


Follow DVD Verdict


Other Reviews You Might Enjoy

• The Pagemaster
• The Vice Academy Collection
• Airplane II: The Sequel
• Saving Silverman

DVD Reviews Quick Index

• DVD Releases
• Recent DVD Reviews
• Search for a DVD review...

Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 1937
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• All Ages
• Classic
• Comedy
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• Introduction by Rascals Historian Leonard Maltin
• Featurette: American Movie Dogs
• Photo Gallery








DVD | Blu-ray | Upcoming DVD Releases | About | Staff | Jobs | Contact | Subscribe | Find us on Google+ | Privacy Policy

Review content copyright © 2004 Michael Stailey; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.