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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » SlapHappy Volume 9
SlapHappy Volume 9
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
this review to a friend
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 Nine:

The three episodes on Volume Nine are:

Hollywood Spoofs: Comedians love to spoof popular trends, even the movies themselves. This instalment looks at some of the great parodies of movies, movie stars, and movie making that were created in the early days of film. Will Rogers does cutting (and hilarious) impersonations of both Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks in Big Moments from Little Pictures, cross-eyed Ben Turpin makes fun of silent westerns in The Daredevil and Mack Swain makes fun of egoistical stars in A Movie Star.

Will Rogers plays a Robin Hood who is a little bit light in the loafers, spoofing Douglas Fairbanks' film.

One of the film clips I enjoyed the most was from the Our Gang comedy Dogs of War. In this short the kids run around through the soundstages and backlot in Hal Roach's studio. It was fun to see so many familuar sets and get a brief tour of the lot. There is also a cameo of Harold Lloyd filming on the set of Why Worry?

Comedy Directors: In addition to talented comedians, a good short needs a talented director behind the camera. This time SlapHappy looks at some of the best and most influential directors of comedy shorts from the silent era.

Many of the best directors were also stars themselves. The best known actor/director in the silent era was Charlie Chaplin of course. This episode starts off with an excerpt from his film The Adventurer, one of the last movies he did for Mutual.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was not only a huge star, but also directed many of his own films. After the scandal the destroyed his career he continued working by directing shorts for various poverty row studios. A clip from Butcher Boy which features Buster Keaton's first film appearance is shown.

Snub Pollard discovers that he's holding a bomb in Blow 'Em Up.

Another talented director was Charles Parrot who was hired by Hal Roach in 1920. He had a knack for absurd comedy with fast paced action that played well with audiences. In the clip included in this episode, he directs Snub Pollard in the wild Blow 'Em Up. In 1924 Parrot grew tired of being behind the camera, changed his name to Charley Chase, and embarked on a successful career as a comic.

Our Gang: The longest running series in movie history was the Our Gang shorts that Hal Roach produced. Running for 22 years, the series has a legion of fans due to the smart scripts and natural actors who populated the series. This time, SlapHappy looks at the genesis of this delightful series.

Hal Roach started the series after one of the child actors that he used, Ernie Morrison aka Smillin' Sammy, started stealing scenes from his best comics. Roach figured if one kid could improve a film, a whole group of them would be popular. He was right. Starting in 1922 with Morrison at the nucleolus of the gang, the series was a big hit.

The Gang makes their own railroad and train in The Sundown Limited.

Some of the great clips in this episode include Harold Lloyd and Ernie Morrison in Get Out and Get Under where you can see the charm this little actor had. They also include sections from Dogs of War, where the kids stumble onto a film set and decide to make their own film, and The Fraidy Cat featuring Charley Chase in one of his first staring roles for Hal Roach.

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:

The Hollywood Spoofs episode was easily the standout on this disc. The send-ups of both stars and movies were great. The Comedy Directors show was also a solid episode that had some very funny clips. As with the other volumes in this series, this disc is Highly Recommended.

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