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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » SlapHappy Volume 10
SlapHappy Volume 10
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 Ten:

The three episodes on Volume Ten are:

Comediennes: Though silent comedy, like comedy today, is dominated by men, there were several successful female comediennes in the days before sound. This episode looks at some of the best of them.

The show starts off with the most famous, and funniest, comedienne: Mabel Normand. Mabel was an accomplished actress and knew how to find the humor in just about any scene. She made a series of successful films with Roscoe Arbuckle for Mack Sennet, and ended up writing and directing many of her shorts while at Keystone. She went on to star in feature films before her career ended in a series of scandals.

Mable Normand is mad at her 'husband' Roscoe Arbuckle in Fatty, Mabel and the Law.

Dorthy DeVore was another amusing talent. She preformed in stunt oriented films like those that Harold Lloyd is remembered for. Included in this show is a good clip from Hold Your Breath where Dorothy finds herself hanging from the side of a building chasing a monkey that has stolen a valuable bracelet. Though her stunts and gags were not as fine tuned and nail biting as Lloyd's this was a fine scene.

There is also the often shown scene from the Colleen Moore comedy Ella Cinders where she uses trick photography to roll each eye in different directions. Unlike most times when this is shown though, SlapHappy includes the set-up for the gag. Other scenes from the film prove that Moore was good at more than just trick photography, something I hadn't realized before seeing this show.

Battling Clowns: Slapstick comedy gets a lot of its humor from putting the comedians in dangerous situations. This episode looks at shorts where the comedians had to fight for their lives with hilarious results.

The show starts off with A Ton of Fun film, The Heavy Parade, a spoof on King Vidor's classic The Big Parade. This short has the obese trio in the middle of WWI fighting Germans and trying to woo an attractive French girl. If you've seen the Vidor's movie, this is a riot.

German soldiers taunt the Ton of Fun Trio in The Heavy Parade.

Harry Langdon also fought WWI on the silver screen. In All Night Long, he has to cross no-man's-land at night, getting tangled in barbed wire while trying to get rid of a live hand grenade.

War wasn't the only place that comics had to fight. Harold Lloyd gets into trouble in Number Please, and Llyod Hamilton ends up in room full of battling men in Careful Please. There is some hair raising thrills in the Larry Semon short Horseshoes where the diminuative Semon is chased after by the local bully played by Oliver Hardy. This episode contains some great slapstick.

Stan and Ollie: Before the Boys: The comedy team of Laurel and Hardy made a total of 106 comedy films over their years together. The two actors made well over 300 films before teaming up though. This episode of SlapHappy looks at Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's early years in film before they teamed up and made comedy history.

This episode gives a nice, brief history of the two actors start in show business. Both of them worked for years in various roles. Oliver often played the heavy, while Stan was trying to develop a comic persona of his own. In 1927, the pair appeared opposite of each other in The Lucky Dog, a section of which is presented here. Though they were friendly on the set, neither of them ever thought that they would one day be partners.

Oliver Hardy holds up his furture partner Stan Laurel in The Lucky Dog.

As Stan Laurel's comedy sense was improving, so was his popularity. There are scenes from several of his later pre-Laurel and Hardy days including Dr. Pickle and Mr. Pride, and Hustling for Health.

The show ends just when the story gets really interesting. Hardy jumped around from studio to studio as did Laurel, but they both ended up with Hal Roach. Here director Leo McCarey, suggested that the two work together, and helped create one of the finest comedy teams the world would ever know.

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:

This is a great series, and I was sad to see it come to an end with this volume. I was laughing at literally every episode. But his show isn't only entertaining, but it's very informative too. Many obscure and forgotten comics are profiled in this series. This is a great resource. This disc, and the whole series, is Highly Recommended.

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