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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » SlapHappy Volume 6
SlapHappy Volume 6
Other // Unrated // January 1, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Slaphappycomedies]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 21, 2005 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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Series Overview:

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 star faded.

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?

Volume Six:

The three episodes on Volume Six are:

Thrill Comedians: Many one and two reel films of the silent era relied on outrageous stunts to get laughs. From Buster Keaton's amazing prat falls to Harold Lloyd's hanging off the side of a skyscraper, silent comedians were always looking for laughs with danger. This episode looks at some of the most famous comedians who earned a living by risking their lives (or the lives of their stunt doubles) in order to make a funny film.

One of the greatest comedians of this type was Buster Keaton, an amazing acrobat and comedian. There is a nice excerpt from The Paleface where Keaton is chased down a mountainside by a tribe of Indians. Keaton takes some great falls and you can see that he was a very talented acrobat.

Buster Keaton is burned at the stake in The Paleface.

Lupino Lane was also a fine acrobatic comedian, nearly as talented as Buster Keaton. In His Private Life, Lane is a rich pampered man who has been drafted into the army. Also drafted was his butler, who is now his drill sergeant. Mayhem ensues as the now strict sergeant tries to whip the fop into shape.

One of the best shorts in this episode is a 1924 Monty Banks film, Pay or More. Here Monty has to get the rent money from a pair of toughs who don't want to pay. The chase scene that ensues is both creative and hilarious. Banks was a fine comedian and someone should put out a collection of his shorts.

The only disappointing part of this chapter is that the most famous thrill artist, Harold Llyod, is only given brief mention. There is a very short excerpt from Ask Father, but his more famous comic stunts are missing. This is most probably due to copyright issues as I know that Susan Lloyd, Harold's granddaughter, is very protective of her ancestor's legacy.

More Funshops: In the early days of the 20th century, there were hundreds of independent movie studios trying to sate the country's demand for films. Many of these companies were only distributed in small towns and rural areas, but they managed to eak out a living on the edges of the Hollywood system. This instalment of SlapHappy takes a look at some of these small time outfits that produced comic shorts.

One of the most interesting clips in this show is from Billy West. He was one of the legion of Chaplin impersonators who tried to cash in on the success of the Tramp. (The fact that the time between Chaplin shorts was often quite long helped these imitators immensely.) The thing that sets Billy West apart from the others is that he was actually very good. He created some innovative and unique gags and had a good sense of timing. Working for the King B company West became very popular as a Chaplin look-a-like. He eventually abandoned his Chaplin persona and created his own character, but unfortunately his popularity plummeted.

Max Linder

There is also a very interesting section on Max Linder, the first popular screen comedian, and an actor that Charlie Chaplin greatly admired. He was also the first comedian to create a screen persona. Working for the French company Pathe, he was exceedingly popular in the years proceeding WWI. His popularity waned as Chaplin's increased though, and today he is not nearly as well known as he should be.

Great Gags 3: This third look at some of the funniest gags of the era is just as riotous as the first two. Among the films features in this instalment, one of the best is the Bobby Vernon film Short Socks. When Vernon falls in love with a young lady he sees in a department store, he tries to make her acquaintance by returning a purse that she dropped. The only problem is the police think he stole it. He ends up dressing up as a child to elude them, only to have the truant officer return him to school. The same school where his love happens to teach. The classroom scene at the end where Vernon is constantly trying to get the teachers attention is absolutely hilarious.

Slim Summerville is mistaken for the notorious Murderous Mountaineer in A Horse on Barney.

Another great scene comes from a A Horse on Barney, featuring Slim Summerville. Slim is a tall gangly comedian and in this short he's mistaken for a notorious wrestler, The Murderous Mountaineer. His opponents are all terrified into submission until the real Mountaineer shows up and challenges him. A very funny boxing match ensues.

Snub Pollard is an inventor who comes up with all sorts of crazy gadgets to make his life easier in It's a Gift. Like several Fatty Arbuckle shorts, the wacky inventions that Snub comes up with creates the humor. This has always has been one of my favorite type short comedies, and the creative and humorous gags in this one work well.

The DVD:


Each disc in this series comes in a keepcase and contains three half hour episodes on a single DVD-R.

Audio:

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.

Video:

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. Much of the film is from 35 mm prints, but a minority of them looked like they originated from 16mm reduction prints, but even these looked 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 "Slap Happy" bug in the lower right hand corner during the entire show. This is a minor annoyance at best though.

Extras:

There are no extras on this discs.

Final Thoughts:

It was a treat seeing the Max Linder clips in this volume, and the Lupino Lane excerpts were great too. The clips from the Bobby Vernon film Short Socks was uproariously funny too. SlapHappy has the rare ability to entertain as well as educate. Another Highly Recommended DVD from this series.

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