Series: Laurel and Hardy

Director: James Parrott
Producer: Hal Roach
Titles: H.M. Walker
Photography: Len Powers
Editor: Richard C. Currier

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Richard Carle, Charley Rogers
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 01 December 1928
Length: 2 reels
Production No.: L-14
Filming dates: July 16-31, 1928
Rating: 4/10

Habeas Corpus

Available on DVD:

Over the supper table, Professor Padilla (Richard Carle) is contemplating a new theory that the human brain has a level surface, when there is a knock at the door. His butler (Charley Rogers) answers to find Stan and Ollie standing there. When Stan boldly asks for a piece of buttered toast, they are invited inside and offered them $500 to do a job for him. The nosey butler (who reveals to the camera he is in fact an undercover detective) listens in on the conversation through the door before telephoning his superior to tell him of the plan. The professor's eccentricity is displayed as he disposes of his cigarette ash in his jacket pocket before propositioning the men with his plan. "Go to the graveyard and bring me back a body, tonight". At five minutes to midnight, the cops arrive at the house and take the professor into custody whilst Stan and Ollie obliviously make their way to the graveyard.
In the middle of the night, Stan and Ollie walk along the road armed with the necessary equipment to exhume a body from the nearby cemetery. After a brief stop at a recently painted lamp-post (Ollie finds out the hard way) they resume their journey and arrive at the cemetery where the butler has donned a white sheet and taken cover in the shadows. Upon their arrival, Stan and Ollie's brisk walk suddenly becomes cautious as the wind picks up. Bravely, Ollie suggests that Stan goes into the graveyard and dig, whilst Ollie stays at the gates to "protect him". A hesitant Stan slowly makes his way inside but comes flying out of there when he hears a sneeze! Ollie is having none of it, and after a hat exchange, he sends Stan back in for more. Stan starts to dig a hole when a detective sees him and goes to accost Stan, when the hiding detective, covered in a white sheet, emerges from the bushes and scares everybody towards the exit.
Stan explains to Ollie, "they buried somebody too soon!" Ollie is still unpreterbed and leads Stan back to the cemetery gates, which have been closed by the fleeing detective. It means Stan is going over the wall.... eventually. Ollie locks his hands together so that Stan can use them as a means to elevate himself up, but of course, he simply bounces up and down (thirteen times in case you were wondering!) They try it with Ollie on his hands and knees with Stan standing on his back, but again, that fails. After almost three (long) minutes Stan gets over the wall and lands straight in a recently dug grave. Stan re-lights his lamp and places it on the ground, or so he thinks. He has in fafct placed it on a tortoise which then walks off. Ollie sees this and loses the plot. Stan gets distracted by flies and starts trying to swat them but his clapping sounds are echoed by the detective who claps from behind a bush.
Things get more creepy when a plastic toy bat, who has seemingly got lost, starts to circle around Stan. Stan tries desperately to swat it but only manages to hit himself - and then Ollie who is looking on from the top of the wall. The tortoise crawls into the bush and sets fire to the detective's sheet with the lamp, sending him running around the graveyard in a whoosh of smoke. Ollie tries to jump over the wall using Stan's back but ends up crashing straight through it. Ollie ends up smashing his own toe with the shovel when he mistakes it for an animal(?). Stan returns to dig out the grave with the smallest tool ever made but the detective has other plans and scares the sh*t out of him. Ollie takes over and retrieves the 'body' from the grave (which has conveniently rolled itself up into the sack) and Stan puts it over his shoulder as they walk off down the street. The 'body' sticks his legs out of the sack and walks behind them before he and Ollie fall into a puddle. When Ollie sees he is not alone in the puddle he quickly jumps out and runs off with Stan.

Favourite bit
It's a brief moment of utter silliness when Stan is trying to swat the bat and ends up smacking himself in the face with the shovel!

Copyrighted June 27, 1929.
Released with a synchronized soundtrack.
Leo Sulky plays the detective who is seen in the telephone conversation with Charley Rogers, yet strangely his credit is missing from some L&H film listings which claim his scenes were deleted. Not so. In fact it was Lon Poff who shot scenes for the film as the cemetery keeper which ended up on the cutting room floor.
The opening titles sequence are in the shape of gravestones.
Randy Skretvedt states in his book that the cemetery was likely a vacant lot outside the studio.
On the original opening titles sequence, the transition between third and fourth cards (when it switches from the card "with Richard Carle and Charlie Rogers" to the card "Directed by James Parrott...."), the former card remains faded onto the screen (see credits section below). Also note that Charley Rogers's name is mis-spelled as well.
The opening scene when Stan asks a stranger for food is reminiscent of him doing so later on in One Good Turn. Now, we have to assume that this was the purpose of them knocking on the Professor's door, but Ollie tells Stan off for asking for the food, which would indicate that was probably not the reason they knocked. If the Boys were really down on their luck, why would Ollie discourage Stan from asking for food? Secondly, it feels a bit too convenient that they would then be offered a large sum of money to do a "simple" job?
The professor wears a wedding ring.
The sign post which Ollie climbs reveals they are at the corner of Hunter Street and Third Street.
Ollie climbs a street post in order to find out which street they are on, only to find a wet paint sign and get his suit messed up in the process. He would do the exact same thing sixteen years later in The Big Noise.
There is an inconsistency in the painted stripe down Ollie's jacket after he climbs down from the street post. In the subsequent shot of him walking along the road, the painted white line appears to be different (more tidy) that in the previous shot.
Fans of the TV show "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" will recognise the reference to the show's theme music after Stan places the lamp on a tortoise. We hear a few bars from "Funeral March Of A Marionette".
When Ollie gets scared after seeing the moving lamp on the tortoise he jumps back down from the wall to the sidewalk. Watch as the supposed concrete wall wobbles.
My opinion
It's a bit of a flat one, not one of Laurel and Hardy's more memorable films. The scene where Ollie tries to lift Stan over the cemetery wall goes on for so long that it completely kills the momentum of the movie.

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Richard Carle
Professor Padilla
Charley Rogers
Ledoux, the butler
Leo Sulky
Detective on telephone
Chester Bachman


CREDITS (click image to enlarge) CREDITS (RE-MADE) (click image to enlarge)

INTERTITLE CARDS (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Rick Greene (lobby cards)
Richard Finegan (stills)

This page was last updated on: 21 August 2021