Movie Summaries

Radio Shows




Dr. Macro's
Movie Scans

Privacy Statement Visitor Agreement
Laurel & Hardy  



Fortezza Films, 1952.  Directed by John Berry, Leo Joannon.  Camera:  Armand Thirard.  With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Suzy Delair, Max Elloy, Suzette Maïs, Adriano Rimoldi, Luigi Tosi, Nicolas Amato, Guglielmo Barnabò Lucien Callamand.

Laurel & Hardy inherit a yacht and an island and set out to sea accompanied by a stateless refugee who offers to act as their cook in return for a home on their island, and a stowaway.  Their yacht founders in a tropical storm, but providentially a newly created atoll emerges from beneath the sea to save them.  Settling down in their new home, they are soon joined by a girl fleeing from her jealous fiancée.  Together they organize the island as their own private Republic, and all goes well until uranium is discovered.

The nations of the world battle over ownership of the atoll, and money-hungry adventurers swarm there.  The little party is about to be lynched when another timely eruption sinks their atoll beneath the waves once more.  A passing ship rescues them.

Suzy is reunited with her now contrite fiancée, but Laurel & Hardy, finally reaching their own island, find that inheritance and other taxes are so staggering that they must forget their dreams of a life of ease.

Laurel and Hardy's final film was almost as much of a misfire as Chaplin's A King in New York, but it was nevertheless a courageous effort to do something different, and in this respect at least it was a far more worthwhile venture than most of their later U.S. releases.  But it was one of those unfortunate productions foredoomed to failure by budget limitations and problems of communication between a multilingual crew.  Much of its political satire needed wit rather than visual humor or, better still, a delicate blending of both in the Preston Sturges manner.

John Berry, a good directory of taut melodramas, was clearly a totally unsuitable choice as the film's co-director, and commercially a suicidal one for any film with a political tinge (even a comic one), since he was then under a cloud in the United States as one of the "unfriendly" Communists.  The film received but scant U.S. distribution in 1955, three years after its production, and no major distributor would touch it because of its difficult marketability and the problem of Berry's association with it.

When it was finally released, it was cut by more than two reels, and curiously some of the funniest sight-gag sequences were among those deleted.  Further hurting the film was the rather crude dubbing for the non-Laurel & Hardy roles, and most especially the appalling physical appearance of Stan Laurel himself.  He had been extremely ill prior to and during production, and looked far older and sicker in this film than he did more than ten years later, just before his death.  The shock of his appearance was such that his admirers didn't feel like laughing at him, and by the time this initial impact had worn off, it was too late to really warm up to the film.  Nevertheless, it had a certain charm and was quite undeserving of the total obscurity into which it was hurled.

Lacking in much of the standard Laurel & Hardy humor (wisely, for they looked to old for their familiar knockabouts to be appealing or even to have any point), it substituted elements of whimsy and satire, and had much of the spirit of one of Douglas Fairbanks' last films, the breezy Mr. Robinson Crusoe.  There was an abundance of sight gags, but most of them were bizarre gags for immediate reaction, more reminiscent of Buster Keaton than the carefully built routines of Laurel & Hardy.  Typical gags:  Laurel leaning out of the porthole during the hurricane to literally "pour oil on the troubled waters" (the mountainous waves instantaneously subside!); Laurel burping his pet lobster; and a wild episode in which a bat invades their cabin at night.  Laurel chases it, gradually maneuvering it to the window.  But when he opens the window, instead of the ne bat flying out, a whole swarm of his comrades fly in!.  The dialogue, too, was often quite pointed and amusing, as in a good episode where Hardy allots the prime political posts of his new Republic, giving key positions to himself, Suzy Delair (a vivacious French actress, strangely lusterless here), and his other two cohorts.  All of the governmental posts have been filled before Hardy gets to Stan, who is heartbroken that he has been ignored.  But Hardy pacifies him with a magnificently diplomatic line: "Why Stanley, you're The People!"

Despite their age and the uncertainty of their surroundings, Laurel & Hardy keep the film going at a good clip.  It falters only in the lengthy and tedious cutaway sequence to establish the boy-girl subplot, and in the climactic episodes when the commentary on political wrangling and the tyranny of mob rule is inevitably too heavy for the comedy balance to be maintained.  However, the film brightens up again for its finale with an unexpected "black" joke.  The stateless refugee, once more back to his old trade of trying to smuggle himself aboard outgoing ships, hides this time in a lion's cage.  All that is left as the cage is swung aboard ship are his boots!

Atoll K was the last film in which Laurel & Hardy appeared together.  Stan had made no appearance at all without Hardy since their initial teaming.  Hardy worked in only three films without Stan:  Hal Roach's Zenobia 1939; a serio-comic role in a 1949 John Wayne western, The Fighting Kentuckian; and a character comedy vignette in Frank Capra's Riding High in 1950.

The Films of Laurel and Hardy
by William K. Everson
The Citadel Press, 1967


Poster artwork courtesy of Mario