Sunday, May 12, 2013


Back in January, I did a post on TCM's running a night of movies that Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made in foreign languages. At the time, I hadn't seen any of them, so I couldn't comment on them. TCM is re-running most of them tomorrow morning, though, and now, I can certainly recommend Politiquerías, which shows up at 10:45 AM tomorrow on TCM.

Politiquerías is a Spanish-language remake and lengthening of Laurel and Hardy's English-langauge Chickens Come Home. The English language movie, like a lot of the Laurel and Hardy shorts, runs about 30 minutes. The plot of that one, which is preserved in the Spanish version, involves businessman Ollie. He's been nominated for mayor by the town's reformists, and is sure to win. That is, until a woman from Ollie's past shows up with some compromising photos -- photos that would most certainly scuttle Ollie's candidacy! So, it's up to Ollie's right-hand man, unsurprisingly played by Stan Laurel and named Stanley, to get those photos, by hook or by crook, before the woman shows up at Ollie's house at the big party he's holding.

Now, Laurel and Hardy's humor can be zany at times and, to be honest, zany to the point that I might want to knock the shorts down a notch or two. That's just a matter of taste, of course; other people probably love that zaniness. And, to be certain, that zaniness shows up in both the English- and Spanish-language versions of this movie. But the much more interseting thing is what shows up in Spanish but not in English. No, I'm not talking about Laurel and Hardy's attempts to speak Spanish. I've never studied the langauge, so I'm not the one to judge how badly they mangle the language. And that's not the most interesting part of the film, anyhow.

Apparently, audiences in Spanish-speaking countries liked variety numbers of the sort that in Hollywood would have been their own one-reel shorts. Here, though, the variety acts are added to the movie during the party scene in what is really a break from the plot having nothing to do with the rest of the story. The first of these is a magician, who does many of the standard-issue tricks involving playing cards, handkerchiefs, and the like. Most of the act is stuff we've all probably seen before, but the magician here is so entertaining that he makes seeing the tricks again still be fun. Even more interesting is the second act. This one is a man by the name of "Hadji Ali" who is called a professional regurgitator. Yes, you read that right. Hadji Ali's stock in trade is swallowing things, and then bringing them back up at will. He swallows a large amount of water, only to spit it back up with surprisingly good aim. Then there are the nuts. Finally, and most shocking, Hadji Ali drinks from a container marked "Kerosina", which he then brings back up to set stuff on fire. It has to be seen to be believed, and makes the whole film worth watching.

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