Oliver the Eighth is a lot more plot-heavy (and a bit more macabre) than the usual L&H short. But as scare-comedies go, it’s a darned sight better than The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case.
The story is that Stan and Ollie (here, partners in a barbershop) come across a personals ad that Stan and Ollie both answer (though Ollie neglects to mail Stan’s letter). Unfortunately for (and unbeknownst to) Ollie, the woman in question (Mae Busch) has it in for men named Oliver, and she gets engaged to him merely for the pleasure of slitting his throat.
It’s not L&H’s greatest or most pleasant storyline, but it allows for some superb pantomime by all, especially when Stan and Ollie get to the woman’s mansion and have to deal with a butler (Jack Barty) who serves imaginary soup. Stan, being a bit on the abstract side himself, plays along for quite a while, but finally the logical side of him sinks in, and he declares, “You’re nuts.”
It’s also nice to see Stan be a bit more assertive than usual. When he realizes that Ollie has duped him, he follows Ollie to the woman’s mansion and declares that he deserves “half of what you’re going to get” (which he is surely doomed to receive). Of course, we find out that Stan wasn’t quite that assertive in selling the barbershop, but you can’t have everything.
Like most of L&H’s thrill-comedies (such as Habeas Corpus), Oliver the Eighth reeks of nostalgia for a time when it took far less blood and gore to put an audience on the edge of its seat. As such, it’s a worthwhile comedy.