Berth Marks
R0 - United Kingdom - Ag Plate
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (21st September 2014).
The Film

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Laurel and Hardy's second two-reel talkie is made up of a few very simple scenes. Oliver Hardy goes to meet his partner Stan Laurel at the train station. They have a vaudeville act which involves a bass fiddle and are on their way to their next performance. They just barely make the train and are led to their berth, wreaking havoc amongst the other passengers in their wake.

With much difficulty, they undress in their berth. As soon as they're ready for bed, they arrive at Pottsville, their destination, and have to hurry off. Once the train has left the station, they discover that they have left their bass fiddle on board.

But the situations aren't important, it's what the boys do with them. The way Ollie wanders around the station in search of Stan, just missing him several times, and the various contortions the pair try to get into their upper berth that give the film its fun. Especially nice is the interchange between the boys and the conductor.

This Laurel & Hardy short is unmissable!

Video

Low budget public domain distributor Ag Plate (whose releases can often be found in 1 related chain stores), have released the short film "Berth Marks" on to DVD all on it's own, rather than with other related shorts. They have used the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, but unfortunately it looks like the print has been dragged through a hedge backwards, then recorded from an eighth generation VHS.

So, where to start? The feature is less than twenty minutes long, but not a single second of it looks good. Right from the start, when we see the title card that is horribly faded (you can't make out some of the writing at the bottom), you become self aware of what is to come. Details are practically non-existent, with everything looking clunky and dishevelled, whilst backgrounds just become a blur of black and white noise. The print is absolutely littered with damage, with more scratches, nicks and dirt than I care to count, especially in scenes which take place on the train itself. Stability isn't too bad. There isn't much wobble, so at least whoever was in charge of this release got something right to a degree of sensibility. Still, there is nothing to be joyous about here. With the title in the public domain, I doubt many companies will put much effort into restoring the film, even if it is from a pair of early cinema's comedy legends, and one of the greatest double acts to ever grace the silver screen. Gutted.

The feature is uncut and runs 19:16 including copyright screens and company logos.

Audio

Ag Plate have provided a single English LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono track on this disc, and although it isn't quite the disaster the transfer is, it is still very poor indeed. The dialogue is mumbled and often difficult to understand, resulting in the need to rewind and listen again. Unfortunately, turning the volume up just results in a sea of hiss, so there is no easy fix here. The track is decisively flat, with no depth at all - a shame, as there are a few sound effects that would really help involve the viewer if they were a bit clearer. It's a barely serviceable track, and not one you'll want to listen to again.

No subtitles are included.

Extras

None.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: E+ Audio: D- Extras: F Overall: D

 


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