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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Shorts > Children > Little Rascals Collection (Koch)

The Little Rascals Collection (Koch)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Shorts: B-



One of the most enduring of all Hollywood Icons has fallen on tough times and is due for a comeback.  The Little Rascals Collection offers a cross-section of the original Our Gang series, with eleven shorts that date back to the silent era.  They fill the first four of the five DVDs in this set and are:


1)     Dogs Of War (with Harold Lloyd)

2)     Derby Days

3)     Stage Fright

4)     Sundown Ltd.

5)     The Pirates

6)     Mary – Queen Of Tots

7)     The Fourth Alarm

8)     School’s Out

9)     Bear Shooter

10)  Our Gang Follies Of 1938

11)  Waldo’s Last Stand



The first seven, coming from the original Hal Roach Studios, are from the silent era.  They were hits in the 1920s and are little seen.  The remaining are the sound shorts that M-G-M released and were syndicated often in the early days of TV into the 1970s, where they received consistently high ratings for whatever stations were smart enough to license them.  At first, as in the first three shorts, all Roach and company had to do was push the novelty that there were a group of kids in funny live-action short films.  Towards the end, the visual gangs and wacky set pieces that visually distinguished them from all other child acts in the business developed.


Besides the famous signs with their misspellings and child-like writing, despite the fact that these were kids suffering through the depression, they managed to hold rather elaborate stage shows with musical numbers, launch money-making schemes, find all kinds of clothing and build terrific racing vehicles from scratch.  They were not thieves either, and it was not until the animated Fat Albert arrived in the 1970s that any other group of economically deprived kids were so innovative with having so little.


By the sound shorts, the Gang happened to be at the wealthiest film studio in the Classical Hollywood Era, so it is no surprise these kinds of “bursts of creativity” happened out of nowhere.  Even now, it is remarkable how hilarious and smart these programs are.  It would be fair to say that they are one of the most successful shorts series in cinema history.  This box shows the growth of the original gang in what is now too commonly labeled a franchise, but Roach and later producer Robert McGowan kept these as entertaining and fun as possible.  The knack for casting in the series is one of the most remarkable to this day, as reinforced and proved by the horrible, degrading and even sexualized kids of the 1994 Little Rascals feature film that had more than a few parents walking out of director Penelope Spheeris’ all-time disaster.  Sadly, that killed any chance of a much-needed revival, even of the originals found on this set.  The only think that authentically kept the Gang alive was Eddie Murphy’s great series of skits playing an old Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live.


Fortunately, many of the shows have been issued on DVD and this is the most wide-ranging set we have seen yet.  All shot in black and white, the quality is average and all the prints show their age, but they are all watchable.  As for sound, the silent shorts all have music tracks, one of which sounds like a new music recording.  The sound shorts sound fairly good for their age, but restoration of the entire series is needed and we can only hope later M-G-M shorts now held by Warner Bros. have been as saved as other gems in the studio library.  All the encoding is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono.


That extends to the bonus programs on DVD 5, which includes an Our Gang Reunion (about six minutes long) and new documentary called Kid Stuff: Inside Hollywood’s Child Stars.  Both are nice bonuses that enhance the set.  The former is a visit with the earliest stars of the silent shorts, which should make die hard fans pleased, while the latter (about an hour in length) covers a wide range of child stars from the Classical Hollywood era.  There is just enough of Our Gang in it to justify its inclusion.  All that makes this one of most distinct Little Rascals DVD releases to date.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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