Any Old Port

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

Stan & Ollie are two tars again, helping a damsel in distress. I worry a bit when the boys, or when Larry and Curly and Moe for that matter, start doing things like that. Sunday School good behaviour just doesn’t suit them, or the films in which they appear. Further, mayhem ends up taking a back seat to morals. All of that can make for sentimentality or smarm.

It’s a good thing then that the second half of this film gets itself all distracted, enthusiastically devoting itself to the prosecution of a really crooked boxing match. It’s interesting to see the boys revisit this situation—cf. The Battle of the Century, q.v.—in a sound setting. It’s very interesting to see them do it so amorally, so shamelessly. Any Old Port is practically a primer on the ways you can throw a fight. “I bet on you to lose,” says Ollie to Stan, “but you double-crossed me!”

Does this seem an inappropriate, irresponsible way for a middle-aged parent of children to discuss these issues? In real life we are mostly, quite properly committed to behaving lawfully. But movies aren’t real life. As perhaps with violence in the Roadrunner cartoons, there’s a stylization to the boys’ bad behaviour, and an array of figurative, even therapeutic applications that you can make out of it. Plus, there’s the mere, plain, reassuring fact of that horse-shoe in that glove. It’s the kind of thing that can comfort you in the face of life’s uncertainties, and even in your old age. Just cheat!