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March of the Wooden Soldiers Blu-ray Review

March of the Wooden Soldiers Blu-ray

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” is a charming Laurel and Hardy adventure.

“March of the Wooden Soldiers” (AKA the original “Babes in Toyland”) is a fantastical musical adventure that contains loads of fairytale/fictional characters such as Jack and Jill, Old King Cole, Mother Goose, Santa Claus, and even a creepy Mickey Mouse. The story primarily focuses on Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee trying to raise money to stop the villainous Silas Barnaby from evicting everyone from the giant shoe that they live in. Bo Peep, who also lives in the shoe with Stannie and Ollie, is hoping to marry Tom-Tom Piper, but she reluctantly plans to marry Silas in order to save everyone from being evicted.  Knowing this would ruin her life, Stannie and Ollie try to find a way to stop Silas from marrying Bo Peep, but can they stop him?

If you’ve ever watched any of the silent or talkie comedic shorts (or even the feature length films) starring the legendary comedic duo Laurel and Hardy, you’d know that they are fairly low key, funny, slapstick affairs with a very limited number of cast members. ‘March,’ on the other hand, is the complete opposite. This is a huge production with massively detailed sets, a wide variety of costumes, a large cast of characters, and some truly ambitious scenes (especially the ending battle with Silas and the Bogeyman vs. the people of Toyland). Amidst this big spectacle of a movie, you’d think the humor of Laurel and Hardy would be lost, but thankfully, the duo still gets a chance to shine AND be heroes. Granted, the humorous segments tend to be rushed here in favor of moving the rather generic story along, but you’ll still see plenty of iconic Laurel and Hardy moments like Oliver Hardy mugging the camera and Stan Laurel crying.

Going back to the production values, I have to say that the world of Toyland really impressed me here. Fantastical worlds can so often look stagey and cheap (especially in classic cinema), but the production team clearly went all out here to complete a vividly detailed world filled with a variety of buildings and houses, uniquely designed costumes, and an impressive array of props. Even the Bogeyland environment looked impressive despite being a much smaller set.

Video/Audio:

The Blu-ray disc contains both the B&W and colorized versions of the film (both of which are presented in 1.33:1 1080p). The original and, as far as I’m concerned, the only version (the B&W print) has been lovingly restored. Sure, there’s some flickering and the “Go To Sleep” sequence is a bit rough around the edges, but the picture is so crisp notice that you will notice so many more details on the sets and costumes. As for the colorized version, it looks fine if that’s the sort of thing you are into. Note: There is also a Blu-ray 3D edition of this film out now as well.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track gets a big round of applause from me. The audio has really been cleaned up here and is much more crisp sounding than in past home video releases.

Extras:
* Trailers for “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (in color and B&W), “A Christmas Wish,” “Beyond Christmas,” and “The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection.”
* “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”-A dopey animated short that you may have seen the RiffTrax gang recently mock.
* “Vintage Toy Commercials” for Remco Coney Island penny machines, Gaylord, a Shirley Temple doll, a tricycle, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Mr. Kelly’s Car Wash, a a Remco drive-in theater, Union Station, and a Tiger Joe tank.
* “Merry Christmas,” “Christmas Toy Shop,” and “’Twas The Night Before Christmas”- 3 cheesy Castle Films short films.
* “The Little Rascals New Year Greeting”- A short newsreel featuring “Our Gang” singing a Happy New Year song.
* “Howdy Doody’s Christmas Special”- A 7 minute segment from the classic kids show.
* “Jingle Bells”- An animated sing-along of the classic X-Mas tune.
* “A Message From Santa”- The title says it all.
* “Christmas ’45 Theater Greeting”-A short piece that celebrates peace and Christmas.
* “Laurel and Hardy Short”- A color short featuring an older Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy titled “The Tree In A Test Tube.” It’s basically a PSA about wood products.

Summary: It may not be on par with classic Laurel and Hardy works like “The Music Box,” “Sons of the Desert,” or “Busy Bodies,” but “March of the Wooden Soldiers” is a fun classic film for the whole family.

March 19, 2013 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | ,

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