At LAST!! As enjoyable as the first eight films were, this looks and feels like a proper Laurel & Hardy film! It’s funny really that when you’ve watched the first films from the Lucky Dog forward to this point (and of course being teased in Duck Soup), and you then watch ‘Do Detectives Think?‘ it’s reminiscent of putting on your P.J.s and comfy slippers and sliding down into your favourite sofa or armchair. There’s something so warm and familiar about the feel of this film and it’s down to the fact that FINALLY, the Roach studios had paired Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy as a team. Hooray, hallelujah! Now, let the fun begin… and fun it is!
I thoroughly enjoyed this film from beginning to end. Now, I’m not saying that this is the perfect L&H film, not by a long chalk, after all the boys characters are very nearly there, but there’s still some creases needing ironing out. Here for the first time we see the boys dressed in the ill-fitting suits, with bowler hats and full on Stan & Ollie mannerisms. Stan’s hair is still slicked down and Ollie’s moustache is a little too wide, but after waiting patiently through eight films to finally spend time with our heroes, they truly are a welcome sight for sore eyes. It’s a bit like the feeling when you hear a tribute act to your favourite artist, you sort of enjoy it, but really need to go off quickly and hear the real thing again as soon as possible…or maybe that’s just me?
Making things feel even more homely is the very welcome return of James Finlayson. Fin plays the part of Judge Foozle, who at the start of the picture sentences the Tipton Slasher (Noah Young) to death, for murdering two ‘Chinamen’. Following news of the Slasher’s escape from prison, the police send their two worst men (??) Ferdinand Finkleberry (Stan) and Sherlock Pinkham (Ollie) to protect the judge from the retribution of the Slasher.
Inevitably, the Slasher does turn up at the Judge’s house disguised as the conveniently timely replacement butler, where Fin and his wife (the also returning Viola Richard), are waiting anxiously for the police to arrive.
When the boys arrive and the Slasher decides to make his move, much hilarity follows as you would expect. There are some very funny moments, especially during the chase around the house sequences.
Noah Young cuts a frightening figure as the knife wielding Tipton Slasher and his grimace alone is enough to scare the most hardened of men to death. Stan and Ollie’s nervous reactions, having to chase him down are just brilliant. Straight away I was reminded of scenes from classic Laurel & Hardy shorts such as The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case, Midnight Patrol and Night Owls, to name but a few.
Contemporary reviews were warm to the film, but could arguably have been a little more enthusiastic. Here’s what Motion Picture News, 18th November 1927 had to say:
“Detectives evidently do not think, if they are to be judged by this two-reeler, which offers them in anything but the light of thinkers. Not only do they not think, but they are totally lacking in nerve, which, however, serves for comedy purposes and serves fairly well in this instance. The cast is a good one, made up of Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Viola Richard and Noah Young. Fred Guiol directed…”
Film Daily, 4th December 1927, went a little further, fortunately building on a header which simply read “Droll Stuff”:
“Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are a funny pair and in this picture their excellent comedy team-work garners a wagon-load of laughs. For one thing, the theme gives a fine opportunity for troupers with a sense of clowning, and this dust overlook few bets in squeezing out the chuckles…”
In his fantastic and indispensable book Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies, author Randy Skretvedt explains that whilst ‘Do Detectives Think?’ was shot in May 1927, it wasn’t released by Pathe until mid-November. The reason being that Hal Roach had ended his contract with Pathe and signed a new deal with MGM. After releasing ‘Do Detectives Think?’, Pathe only had one more Laurel & Hardy title left to release, namely ‘Flying Elephants‘.
As the boys’ films were growing in their appeal, Pathe hung on to ‘Flying Elephants‘ (which was also filmed in May 1927), and didn’t release it until February 1928, during which time MGM had released around seven successful Laurel & Hardy comedies. Pathe had cleverly held on, waited whilst the boys’ popularity soared and then released it for maximum rewards.
What are your thoughts about ‘Do Detectives Think?’ Leave your comments below and join the discussion.