In the silent film compilation titled "The Golden Age Of Comedy" (from "The First Kings Of Comedy Collection") the narrator ends by stating "We will never see their like again." While the days of groundbreaking comedians are indeed gone, the home video mediums thankfully keep "their like" alive via DVD.
"The Golden Age Of Comedy" is the stronger of the two compilations. The film (which is told via a corny, over explained voice over narration) focuses on slapstick and visual gag comedy bits of the silent years. We see footage from the Mack Sennett years, Laurel and Hardy, Will Rogers, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, the weird Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, and animal stars like Cameo the dog.
"When Comedy Was King" is more or less a retread of the first compilation with the same narrator. The only difference is bigger silent comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and Buster Keaton are featured here, along with Wallace Beery, Edgar Kennedy, Ben Turpin, Sennett Girls, Billy Bevan, Harry Langdon, Laurel and Hardy, and Snub Pollard.
The two compilation films are essentially a cliff notes of silent comedy. We get to see and observe each comedian's shtick, but we don't get the whole picture. For instance, some comedians are completely left out, most notably Harold Lloyd. Also, for some reason, the compilations never show any footage from the comedian's feature films. While there are a countless number of brilliant silent shorts, most of Chaplin and Keaton's best works are feature length films.
Some of the shorts may seem dated or overly cartoony in today's day and age, but many are still hilarious. It's great to watch good old fashioned humor that was raw, unpredictable, and often dangerous (look at the chase scenes). Hollywood couldn't pull off some of these chase scenes and gags nowadays without the aid of CGI. You could do or show anything back in the early days of cinema. There were no limits and fewer safety precautions.
My personal favorite shorts in the two films were Ben Turpin's encounter with a dog and cat, and Laurel and Hardy pie fight and house trashing. Note: Laurel and Hardy were great silent comedians, but their talkie work is far more impressive. They weren't simply physical comedians. They could also make you laugh heartily with jokes and noises.
The fullscreen picture quality is solid considering the two compilations were released in 1957 and 1960. Obviously, some of the comedy short clips look good, while others are filled with scratches, pops, and jumpy frames.
The Dolby Digital audio track is above average. The narration and music are both clear.
Nothing at all.
"The First Kings Of Comedy Collection" is a fine introduction to the silent comedy era. Worth a rent, but I'd recommend checking out Charlie Chaplin, Laurel And Hardy, and Buster Keaton DVDs instead.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.