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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Atoll K
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLéo Joannon
John Berry (uncredited)
Written byJohn D. Klorer
Frederick Kohner
Piero Tellini
René Wheeler
Produced byRaymond Eger
StarringStan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Suzy Delair
CinematographyArmand Thirard
Edited byRaymond Isnardon
Music byPaul Misraki
Distributed byFranco London Films
(France)
Release dates
  • 17 October 1951 (1951-10-17) (France)
  • 25 October 1951 (1951-10-25) (Italy)
Running time
100 minutes
  • 82 minutes (UK cut)
CountriesFrance
Italy
LanguagesFrench
Italian
English

Atoll K is a 1951 Franco-Italian co-production film—also known as Robinson Crusoeland in the United Kingdom and Utopia in the United States – which starred the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in their final screen appearance. The film co-stars French singer/actress Suzy Delair and was directed by Léo Joannon, with uncredited co-direction by blacklisted U.S. director John Berry.

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Transcription

Plot

Stan discovers an inheritance left by his affluent uncle, significantly diminished by taxes and legal fees, leaving him with a dilapidated yacht and a private island in the Pacific Ocean. Accompanied by Ollie, they set sail for the island alongside Antoine, a stateless refugee, and stowaway Giovanni Copini, an Italian bricklayer discontented with his lot.

During the voyage, tensions arise as food inexplicably disappears from Stan's plate, erroneously attributing blame to Ollie. Mechanical failure compounds their woes, with Ollie's attempts at repair proving futile due to Stan's inadvertent mishandling of crucial components. Stranded on a desolate island, dubbed Crusoeland after the literary work Robinson Crusoe, they encounter Chérie Lamour, a nightclub singer fleeing her possessive fiancé, Lieutenant Jack Frazer.

In a bid to safeguard their newfound sanctuary from external governance, they establish a sovereign republic, renouncing laws, taxes, and immigration restrictions. However, the tranquility is fleeting as the discovery of uranium attracts global interest, culminating in a tumultuous revolt to displace the island's founders.

Subsequent calamities, including a storm-induced deluge, facilitate the protagonists' rescue but lead to forfeiture of their property on a subsequent island due to unpaid taxes. The adventure concludes with Ollie bemoaning their misfortunes, echoing their enduring plight.[1]

Cast

Production

In the late 1940s, Laurel and Hardy were without film employment. Earlier in the decade, they ended their long association with producer Hal Roach and signed to make a series of films at both 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In post-World War II Europe, Laurel and Hardy were enjoying a new popularity with audiences that had been unable to see their movies during wartime. As a result of this, the pair received an offer from a French-Italian cinematic consortium to star in a film to be produced in France for $1.5 million, a large budget for the era.[1]

The production of Atoll K was plagued with many problems that caused the making of the film to run nine months beyond its projected schedule of twelve weeks. Ida Laurel, Stan Laurel's widow, told biographer John McCabe, "I'm hardly likely to forget the date we left for France and the date we returned – April 1, 1950, and April 1, 1951. But there was no April Fooling about that terrible year. That bloody picture was supposed to take twelve weeks to make, and it took twelve months."[2]

From the beginning, there were disagreements on the film's screenplay. Laurel was unhappy with the storyline envisioned by French director Léo Joannon and insisted on bringing Alfred Goulding and Monty Collins to aid in writing the screenplay (Alf Goulding received no on-screen credit and Monty Collins was credited with "gags"). There were also considerable problems with communications, since neither Laurel nor Hardy spoke any French and director Joannon spoke very little English.[1]

During the production, the two comedy stars were battling serious health issues. Laurel's pre-existing diabetes was aggravated and he developed colitis, dysentery and a prostate ulcer while on the French locations for the film. He eventually required hospitalization,[3] and his widow would later fault the quality of the French medical care, claiming that at one point, she had to substitute for an absent nurse by changing her husband's bandages. Laurel's weight dropped to 114 pounds, and for most of the production he was able to work for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time.[4]

While in France, Hardy saw his already hefty frame expand to 330 pounds and he required medical care for an irregular heartbeat and a severe case of the flu. Adding to the medical problems was Italian actor Adriano Rimoldi, who played the stowaway, when he fell from a docked yacht and required a month to recuperate away from the production.[3]

When they were able to work, Laurel and Hardy saw their relationship with Joannon deteriorate rapidly. Ida Laurel would later claim Joannon was an incompetent director who spent three days filming a lake because, as she said, "it was the most photogenic lake he'd ever seen."[2] In the middle of the production, US film director John Berry was quietly brought in to work with the team. Berry's American career had been derailed by the Hollywood blacklist and he sought to start over in France. However, his participation was kept secret out of the fear that the film would not get a theatrical release in America if it became known that a blacklisted director was at its helm.[1] Berry's contribution was not publicly acknowledged until 1967, when film historian William K. Everson cited the uncredited director's input in his book The Films of Laurel and Hardy.[5] While Berry never publicly acknowledged his work on Atoll K, the film's leading lady Suzy Delair confirmed his participation during an interview with historian Norbert Aping.[1]

Theatrical release

The theatrical release of Atoll K was confusing and erratic. There was never one definitive version of the film but, rather, six different edits available: a 98-minute British version titled Atoll K, viewed only at British premieres in September, 1951; a 93-minute French version released in October 1951; an 87-minute German version released in December 1951; a 97-minute Italian version called Atollo K; an 82-minute British version called Robinson Crusoeland, released in the United Kingdom in September 1952; and another 82-minute version (edited differently from Robinson Crusoeland) titled Utopia, which premiered in the United States in December, 1954.[6] In the American and British versions, Laurel and Hardy spoke their dialogue in English, as originally recorded, while the French and Italian actors' voices were dubbed in English. The other international versions were presented with the entire soundtracks in their respective languages (all French, all German, all Italian).

In the countries where the various versions played, critical reaction to the film was only fair to poor. The French newspaper Journal du Dimanche complained: "What in hell lured Laurel and Hardy onto this atoll? Unfortunately, this adventure adds nothing to their fame." Italian critic Paolo Locori, writing for the magazine Hollywood, stated: "Stan and Ollie's presence is not enough to lift the movie from its mediocrity." The British Kinematograph Weekly stated the film was "bogged down in a welter of obvious slapstick." When Utopia ultimately played in Los Angeles in early 1955 as a double feature with Blackboard Jungle, Los Angeles Times critic Philip K. Scheuer wrote, "Some of their misadventures en route are nostalgically amusing, but thereafter the comedy deteriorates as rapidly as their fortunes... It is all too plain that Utopia is destined to be the last of the Laurel and Hardy comedies. For the many happy hours they have given us, our grateful thanks."[7]

Copyright status and availability

Over the years, the prints of three of the six versions have degraded. No U.S. copyright was filed for Utopia[8] and the version lapsed into the public domain, resulting in duplicated prints of poor quality used for distribution. Until recently, the only known print of the original 98-minute English-language version was in private hands and this version has never been released on video. However, on January 1, 2012, the French/German TV station ARTE aired a restored 100-minute English version of the film, claiming an international television premiere. The restored copy is based on a copy rediscovered in 2010 in the United States.[9][10] It was released to DVD by Fun Factory Films on January 3, 2013.

Truncated 85/88-minute prints available in Italy on VHS and DVD are all that remain of the Italian version. The original French Atoll K was released on VHS in 1996.[1] On October 10, 2012, the French version of the film was released by Gaumont à la demande on DVD.

In 2018, a Blu-ray version of Atoll K was released in the UK (Region B only).[11] The film has also been televised in the U.S. under the Utopia title by the Movies! network as part of its Saturday morning Laurel and Hardy Show series.

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b c d e f Aping 2008
  2. ^ a b McCabe John. The Comedy World of Stan Laurel. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1974. ISBN 978-0-940410-23-7.
  3. ^ a b Hall, Phil. "Review of 'The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy'." Archived 2015-11-29 at the Wayback Machine EDGE Boston. Retrieved: March 21, 2010.
  4. ^ McGarry 1992, p. 73.
  5. ^ Everson 1967, p. 210.
  6. ^ MacGillivray, Scott, Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward, Second Edition. New York: iUniverse, 2009, p. 203. ISBN 978-1-4401-7239-7
  7. ^ MacGillivray, p. 213.
  8. ^ Norbert Aping (2014). The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy: A Study of the Chaotic Making and Marketing of Atoll K. McFarland. p. 193. ISBN 9780786451746. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  9. ^ "Atoll K." German ARTE Programming guide. Retrieved: January 1, 2012.
  10. ^ "Atoll K." French ARTE Programming guide. Retrieved: January 1, 2012.
  11. ^ "Atoll K Blu-ray (Blu-ray + DVD) (United Kingdom)".
Bibliography
  • Aping, Norbert. The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy: A Study of the Chaotic Making and Marketing of Atoll K. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7864-3302-5.
  • Bowers, Judith. Stan Laurel and Other Stars of the Panopticon: The Story of the Britannia Music Hall. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd, 2007. ISBN 1-84158-617-X.
  • Everson, William K. The Complete Films of Laurel and Hardy. New York: Citadel, 2000, (first edition 1967). ISBN 0-8065-0146-4.
  • Louvish, Simon. Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy. London: Faber & Faber, 2001. ISBN 0-571-21590-4.
  • MacGillivray, Scott. Laurel & Hardy: From the Forties Forward, Second Edition. New York: iUniverse, 2009. ISBN 978-1-4401-7239-7.
  • Marriot, A.J. Laurel & Hardy: The British Tours. Hitchen, Herts, UK: AJ Marriot, 1993. ISBN 0-9521308-0-7.
  • McCabe, John. Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy. London: Robson Books Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-86105-781-4.
  • McCabe, John with Al Kilgore and Richard W. Bann. Laurel & Hardy. New York: Bonanza Books, 1983, first edition 1975, E.P. Dutton. ISBN 978-0-491-01745-9.
  • McGarry, Annie. Laurel & Hardy. London: Bison Group, 1992. ISBN 0-86124-776-0.

External links

This page was last edited on 12 March 2024, at 02:56
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