The Our Gang Collection

Title: The Our Gang Collectionourgang

Silent or Talkie: Talkie

Review

The Our Gang shorts were the brainchild of comedy producer Hal Roach, who introduced them as a silent series in 1922. Though he initially distributed through the Pathé company of France, Roach switched to Metro Goldwyn Mayer for distribution in 1927 and brought sound to his “Gang” in 1929. He continued to produce the shorts until 1938, when he sold the full rights to MGM, who continued the series until 1944. It wasn’t until the mid-1950’s, when the shorts produced by Roach were syndicated for television, that the title was changed to The Little Rascals, so as not to interfere with MGM’s ownership of the Our Gang logo.

The series featured a group of poor neighborhood kids in comedic situations. Among the most notable were Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla, Spanky, Stymie, and a lovable pit bull named Petey, who was known for the trademark circle around his left eye (added by Hollywood make-up artist Max Factor). Our Gang was a groundbreaking series. It featured both African-American and female actors in lead roles, and made them equals, when prejudice against both groups was common. Hal Roach also chose to create the series realistically. Most of the actors were, in actuality, poor children whose frequent run-ins with their rich, spoiled, counterparts and authority figures mirrored real life. To add to this, Roach worked to capture the natural activity of his kids on film, as opposed to the usual practice of grooming child actors to be “cute” or more adult.

Warner Archive continues its feverish wave of releases with The Our Gang Collection, a 5-disc set featuring all 52 MGM Our Gang comedies. The shorts are presented in the order of their original release, beginning with 1938’s The Little Ranger and concluding with 1944’s Tale of a Dog, in which the a rumor of smallpox epidemic causes a panic in the town of Greenpoint and all residents are in need of wooden dog crates. As with all Warner Archive releases, each disc is manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available. With a full running time of 572 minutes and a price of $34.95, this set is a must have for Our Gang fans.

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