Laurel & Hardy are entrusted with a
package (containing a diamond ring) to deliver on shore. Aware of
their own weaknesses, and determined that on this shore leave they won't
fritter away their savings, they leave their money with their captain,
making him promise not to return it to them under any condition until they
have set sail again. The port into which they have been thrust is by
coincidence the home town of their long-lost and now happily-married twin
brothers. The sailors pick up two waterfront girls in a saloon, while not
far away the civilians are entertaining their wives in a slightly more
respectable beer parlor. The inevitable soon takes place, and the
twins become inter-mixed. The temporary loss of the diamond involves
the boys with gangsters and, unable to produce the missing gem, they are
encased in teetering cylinders of cement and left on the edge of the wharf
for the law of gravity to take its course. None too logically, the
tangled threads are straightened out at the last minute, marital suspicions
dispelled, and the long separated twins reunited.
Produced by Stan Laurel's own company for Roach, and thus spared the
occasional interference by Roach,
whose changes in gags and plot structure often caused friction and
dissatisfaction though never any serious rifts on a personal level, Our
Relations was on a much bigger scale than any prior Laurel & Hardy film.
The elaborate night club set in which much of the action took place was a
really impressive creation, and the whole production has a look of class and
polish to it. No little of this can be attributed to the smooth,
glistening camerawork by Rudolph Mate, the only really creative cameraman
that Laurel & Hardy had used since the departure of George Stevens many
Director Harry Lachman, who never worked with them
before or since, was hardly a comedy specialist, but a versatile all-around
craftsman (one of his more notable credits was Dante's Inferno) who seems to
have left the comedy routines pretty much to Laurel & Hardy and to have
devoted his efforts to keeping the tangled plot-lines fairly cohesive and to
creating genuine menace and suspense in the climactic gangster episodes.
Based, though somewhat loosely, on a story by W.
W. Jacobs (author of that Grand Guignol classic, "The Monkey's Paw"),
Our Relations also has more than a casual relationship to
Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, or at least to the musical show made
from it under the title of The Boys from Syracuse. More might
have been made of differentiation between the sets of twins; other than the
fact that the sailors are fun-loving and free and easy, and the husbands
mildly henpecked, both Laurel & Hardys are identical in mannerisms and in
their relationship with one another. However, the film moves too
quickly and covers too much ground for there to be much time to ponder such
While slapstick is there in full measure, it is
again comedy of frustration that dominates: the sailors vainly trying
to persuade the captain to return their money, and being locked in their
hotel room, sans clothes, "for their own good;" the husbands' attempts to
convince their wives and beer parlor proprietor Alan Hale that they were not
there earlier with two blonde pickups; and so on. The traditional
encounter with James Finlayson was even more savage than usual. With
mustard plastered under his toupee, and an electric light bulb screwed into
his mouth, he came off a decided second-best in this particular fray.
The trick photography when the twins finally meet was fairly elementary,
even for 1936, but was smoothly and convincingly done by Mate.
Slightly morbid at times, especially in the cement barrel sequences, Our
Relations is nevertheless one of the most handsome Laurel & Hardy films
and, because of its production values, one that holds up best today.
Television revivals have been especially ruthless to it in terms of cutting,
however. There is even a one-reel version under the title of