(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
How many sitcoms have you seen over the years where a couple of fellows tried to garner laughs by taking risks on a house rooftop? Hog Wild is the template for all of them and remains the funniest by far.
The story’s prologue meanders somewhat with a bit about Ollie not being able to find his hat (it’s already on his head). Once that silliness is over, though, we get to the good stuff.
Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holderness) relentlessly nags Ollie to install the radio antenna he has been promising for weeks, so that she can “get Japan.” (75 years later, my son was watching the movie for the first time and commented, “Why doesn’t she call Comcast?” Such is the nonchalance of the Age of Information.)
Stan happens by and asks if Ollie would mind if he tried to help him, resulting in one of Ollie’s all-time-great responses, knowing what is to come: “I don’t mind…that is, if you’ll help me.” (L&H movies are often cited for their pedestrian dialogue, but here it’s either funny or purposeful. A little later, Stan asks if Ollie has all of his supplies, and Ollie’s throwaway reply is, “Everything. We don’t have to go down for a thing.” If that isn’t one of comedy’s most foretelling lines of dialogue, I don’t know what is.)
From there, it’s L&H at their most typical (which is to say, roaringly funniest): falling into ponds, getting buckets of water tossed at them by stagehands, and waiting for final bricks to fall on Ollie’s head. The whole shebang is capped by perhaps their wildest and most miraculous chase scene ever. (Like Buster Keaton’s chases, nearly the entire thing is shown in full-shot — no “cheating” cuts from Ollie atop a ladder to Stan holding onto the bottom part of the ladder. How they managed this through the winding streets of Los Angeles, God only knows.)
One L&H biography tells us how shocked Babe Hardy’s wife Lucille was when he first showed her the countless bruises his body endured in the name of comedy. For this, we owe Oliver Hardy an eternal debt. Who wouldn’t prefer Hog Wild to one of L&H’s later Twentieth Century-Fox talkfests?