Them Thar Hills

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

Out of the Past, a noted film noir that super-stylist Jacques Tourneur directed in 1947, is partly celebrated for the way it brought urban jeopardy and paranoia into a traditionally idyllic rural setting. I wonder why Them Thar Hills should be any less celebrated, what with having gotten the jump on all that by more than a decade. (Also, Thomas Hardy.) It also prefigures and matches Dr. Seuss’s tremendous I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew in the way that it punctures the notion that you can ever leave your troubles behind when you go to such an idyllic place.

What mayhem! And malice. And delight in exploring those qualities. How dumb, too, though in the nicest way. How exactly does going to the country help your case of the gout? Lots of pieces get set out, and lead to inexorables. There are moonshiners, and there is a well. That will bear fruit a little later on. The formidable Charlie Hall and Mae Busch arrive on the scene, playing distressed motorists. Ditto. In the end Mr. Hall, who often essayed the part of Stan & Ollie’s bête noire, ends up being tarred and feathered. With a toilet plunger stuck to his head. The telling of these things can make the films sound or seem positively malicious, even unforgivable. What a strange thing that they should play so delightfully, so sweetly even.

I personally, in the course of quite a few decades now, have never had my pants catch fire. Oliver Hardy can’t say the same thing. It happens again. Remember what I said about the liquor down in the well?