Utopia (1951)

UTOPIA (1951)
Article 2024 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2006
Posting Date: 2-26-2007
Directed by Leo Joannon, John Berry, Alfred J. Goulding and Tim Whelan
Featuring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Suzy Delair

Laurel and Hardy inherit an island and a boat. On the way to the island, they get stranded with their cook and a stowaway on an atoll that rises out of the sea during a storm. They manage to survive, and grow to enjoy their privacy. Then, when it is discovered that Uranium exists on the island and several countries try to claim it as their own, they are forced to form their own government to keep hold of it.

The fantastic element in this, Laurel and Hardy’s final movie, is probably the fantasy element of a fictional country, which is what the island becomes once Ollie pens a constitution for it. It’s a strange entry in the Laurel and Hardy oeuvre, and I would love to read about the making of this movie. I suspect that the original story didn’t feature Stan and Ollie at all, and that it was rewritten afterwards to take advantage of their involvement; certainly, the political satire isn’t an element of standard Laurel and Hardy cinema, though it is common to the cinema of France, which is where the movie was made. It’s not as bad as its reputation would have you believe; Stan and Ollie still retain their sense of comic timing, and there are some laughs, but there are some real problems. The English dubbing is particularly noticeable, partially due to the fact that Stan and Ollie aren’t dubbed, but all the other characters are, and when the conversation goes back and forth, the sudden change (in mouth movements and ambient noise) is jarring. Furthermore, Ollie appears to have gained a lot of weight, and Stan looks deathly ill at times; he was ill, in fact, and the movie had to be delayed while he had an operation. It’s rather difficult to enjoy them in this condition. Also, I found myself a little disappointed to hear the boys take a few physical potshots at each other, with Stan making a comment about Ollie’s weight and Ollie making one about Stan’s ears; I don’t recall them having engaged in that type of humor before, and I really didn’t like it.


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