Most people have at least heard of the three big silent comedians.
Charlie Chaplin is a household name even today, and Buster Keaton and Harold
Lloyd are well remembered by even casual silent film buffs. In the
1910's and 20's however, there were literally thousands of comedy shorts
made staring comedians who are all but forgotten today. How
many people know of the work of Lloyd Hamilton, Andy Clyde or Larry Semon?
To learn more about these comics, and many others that history has passed
over, you need only turn to SlapHappy.
SlapHappy is an exhaustive 30 episode series that searches out
the forgotten comics and studios of the silent era and gives them a moment
in the spotlight again. More than just a documentary though, these
shows present extended clips from silent shorts in addition to background
information about the stars. This lets you see for yourself how funny
and creative many of these forgotten silent clowns were. It
also gives you the background on these forgotten stars; how they got their
start, who they worked with, how popular they were, and often why their
One of the things I really like about this series is the fact that there
is only sparse narration. The narrator gives the background of the
comic who is on the screen, sets up the piece, and then falls silent.
This lets the viewer concentrate on the comedy on screen, instead of having
to process a lot of information. There is even an option to view
the shows without any narration at all.
Though this series is very informative, the strength of this show is
the rare clips that they've chosen to fill out the half hour. Some
of the clips only last a few seconds, but the majority of them are minutes
long, some going on for five minutes or more. This really gives viewers
the chance to see how gags were set up and executed, as well as how the
comics progressed on to the next gag. By cutting out the plot points
of the shorts, as well as the minor gags, SlapHappy is able to
present the funniest parts of the shorts as well as being able to give
a good overview of an artist's work through several shorts.
Another great strength of the show is that there isn't a laugh track.
This show gives the viewer credit for knowing what's funny and what isn't.
Each volume of The SlapHappy Collection presents three half
hour episodes. Overall, this is a very informative and funny show,
and the DVDs look great. Where else can you get more laughs than
a feature length movie and learn something at the same time?
The SlapHappy movie takes the best sections from the 30 episode series
and distills it down to 90 minutes. The show starts out with one
of the funniest clips in the series, Frauds and Frenzies starring
Larry Semon and featuring a young Stan Laurel. The pair are convicts
on a chain gang who want to do as little work as possible, and end up getting
The movie is packed some wonderful comedians. Harry Langdon, an
underrated silent clown, is featured in a funny clip from The First
Hundred Years where he has to deal with his stern, cigar chomping,
mother-in-law who has just moved in with him. Unlike most of the
other silent comics, Langdon wasn't in a hurry. His comedy is much
slower than that of his peers, and consequently he wasn't as popular as
some of the other comics of the time. When seen today it is easy
to see how inspired he was.
There is a long except from one of the best silent comedies of all,
Buster Keaton's Cops. In this fast paced farce, Keaton is
falsely thought to have tried to bomb a policeman's parade, and the whole
force is after him. Wherever he turns there are squads of police
ready to chase him. A well thought out and executed extended chase
scene, Cops is a fine example of how a little plot and a lot of
imagination can create a side-splitting comedy.
The movie concludes with a wonderful Will Rogers short that he made
with Hal Roach, Big Moments from Little Pictures. In this
film Rogers does a marvelous parody of Mack Sennett studios and the Keystone
There are many more stars and films featured, of course. Charlie
Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Al St. John (who
in later life appeared in westerns as 'Fuzzy' St. John), the Keystone Cops
and the Our Gang kids are only a few of the many comics who appear.
This movie a really great overview of silent era comedies, covering the
studios, actors and production of silent shorts. If you want a solid
grounding in the genre, you can't go wrong with this hilarious movie.
Having said that, I did like the individual volumes of SlapHappy better.
They are more thorough and give you a better feel for the comedians that
they feature. Instead of a single clip, the individual shows will
have sections from several movies at different times of the comic's career.
They also are better able to illustrate the differences between studios.
Now it doesn't matter much if Fox or Columbia release a movie, but back
in the 20's there was a real difference between Mack Sennett's and Hal
Roach's studios. After watching several episodes of SlapHappy you'll
start to see the difference. The movie does give you a taste for
what the series is like, and would be perfect for someone who wants a quick
feel for the genre.
This movie comes in a keepcase and contains the 90-minute feature on
a single DVD-R.
The two channel soundtrack sounded very good. The music for the
series is composed of up beat Jazz music courtesy of Stomp Off Records,
and it works very well. They old time sounding Jazz scores fits with
the antics on screen though the music wasn't composed specifically for
the clips. There are some sound effects added, the slamming of a
door, or a gunshot, and these accentuate the action without becoming intrusive.
Being recent recordings, there is no hiss or other audio defects.
The image quality ranges from good to excellent, with most of the clips being very good. There are no blurry, faded, scratchy prints used in the series that I've seen, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Since many of these clips are from more minor stars and studios I was expecting a poor quality image, but luckily that isn't the case. Some of the source material is from 35mm prints, though much of the film comes from high quality 16 mm reduction prints. Both of which look very good. For film that have been ignored for 80 or more years, the quality is outstanding.
The only qualm I had with the picture is that there is a light "SlapHappy" bug in the lower right hand corner during the entire show.
This is a minor annoyance at best though.
There are no extras on this discs.
This is a uproariously funny film with a lot of great comedy and a good
amount of information. I can't think of any other source where you
can get as much information and so many comedy clips in such a compact
package. This is a great introduction to the Slap Happy series.
If you like this movie, you'll enjoy the more thourough series even more.