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 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
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.
Each disc in this series comes in a keepcase and contains three half
hour episodes 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. 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.
There are no extras on this discs.
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