Vintage Movies: “Saps At Sea”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.


Saps At Sea (1940, 57 minutes)

Stan and Ollie are employed as horn-testers by a horn factory called Sharp & Pierce. And the infernal racket of horns blaring all day and all night is finally getting on Ollie’s nerves. An ambulance just carted away another blithering fellow employee who couldn’t take it anymore. “That’s your fourth one this week,” notes the street cop. After turning up his hearing aid, the plant supervisor says, “That’s right. The G-minor horn always gets them.”

With his hearing aid turned off, the boss enters the testing room again and gives Ollie an order: “Make this horn a G-minor!” Eager to please, Ollie (Oliver Hardy) asks, “Were the others all right?” The boss answers, “Just fair,” as Stan (Stan Laurel) squeezes the bulb of an especially irritating horn that blurts out “Cuckoo!” and makes their boss’ hat pop up in the air.

Five minutes later, the foreman is barking at Ollie, “Haven’t you got that horn fixed yet?!” Exasperated, Ollie throws his hands in the air and pops his cork. “No, I haven’t got it fixed yet! And what’s more, I’m not gonna fix it! Horns to the right of me!! Horns to the left of me!!” The only time the din subsides is when he picks up the huge work bench and tips it over, sending dozens of horns scattering to the floor.

Sent home to wait for the doctor, Ollie has a cold compress over his forehead. “Why doesn’t this ice bag have any ice in it?” he asks. “We don’t have any ice,” replies Stan as the phone rings loud enough to wake the dead. After almost strangling Ollie with the cord, Stan picks up the call. “Hello, this is Dr. Finlayson,” says the caller. “Just a minute,” says Stan as he talks into a banana instead of the receiver. The doctor (James Finlayson) will be right over, Stan tells Ollie. “He’ll be here within either 15 minutes or a quarter of an hour.”

“What’s the matter with me, doctor?” asks Ollie weakly after the medical man has tested his lungs with an exploding-balloon device. “Just as I suspected,” pronounces Dr. Finlayson. “It’s a severe case of hornophobia, bordering on hornomania. What you need is complete peace and quiet with plenty of sea-side rest and a strict diet of goat’s milk.”

The next day, Stan and Ollie, decked out in nautical, striped blazers and yachtsman’s caps have hired an ancient boat to follow doctor’s orders. They even have Narcissus the goat in tow to give plenty of milk (if he’d not happened to be a gentleman goat). That night, Nick Grainger, an escaped murderer, sneaks onboard the boat as the boys are snoring heavily. Nasty as they come, Big Nick (Richard Cramer) is packing a snub-nosed revolver called Nick Jr. in his hip pocket.