DVD Video Reviews »
The Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 - Roscoe ''Fatty'' Arbuckle/Shemp Howard (1932-1934)
The Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 - Roscoe ''Fatty'' Arbuckle/Shemp Howard (1932-1934)
|Warner Archives // Unrated // November 29, 2012|
List Price: $35.98 [Buy now and save at Wbshop]
Review by John Sinnott |
posted April 13, 2013 |
E-mail the Author
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle:
Roscoe had played the vaudeville circuits on his own since he
years old, and in 1913, at the age of 26, he was hired by Keystone. As the story goes, which is probably
apocryphal, when Roscoe arrived at the lot no one stopped or questioned
he wandered around the open stages and buildings. Someone opened a door
stepped out, turned to Roscoe and spit chewing tobacco juice on his new
pants. The man said "You, big boy, be here tomorrow morning at eight."
Then he walked back inside. The man was Mack Sennett, head of the
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle had broken into the movies, and who would
turn out to be one of the great silent comedians.
Vitaphone, a company purchased by Warner Brothers
released a lot of great shorts in the 30's and thanks to the Warner
Collection film fans have access to them.
One of the sets that I was most excited to screen was the
Comedy Collection Volume One, a two-disc release that includes the last
shorts that Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle filmed as well as over a dozen
include Shemp Howard, the man who would replace Curly in the Three
Stooges in 1946. Between the two comedians
there are some great
shorts that are sure to entertain.
Of large build, yet surprisingly spry and able to take a fall,
Roscoe obtained the nickname "Fatty" and was soon staring in
one-reelers at Keystone. He quickly climbed up the comedy ladder. He
films in 1913, and 46 in 1914. By 1915 he had graduated to two-reelers,
a full-fledged star.
By 1916, Fatty who had started writing and directing his own
films, and was ready to leave Keystone. He was making an amazing $500 a
Keystone, but Chaplin was making $10,000 a week plus bonuses at that
the spring of 1916, Arbuckle took a trip to New York, where he met producer Joe
(husband of silent movie star Norma Talmadge.) Schenck, who produced
movies, was looking to expand his operation. In Arbuckle, he saw a good
opportunity. Arbuckle was offered $365,000 a year plus 25% of his
profits. In addition, he would have his own production company, the
Film Corporation, and, most importantly, complete creative control. For
he had to make 8 two-reelers a year. Fatty agreed, and the two men
After the shake, Roscoe found himself holding a small piece of metal,
to a Rolls Royce, his signing bonus.
These Comique shorts were incredibly popular, and based on
their success Paramount
gave Arbuckle a contract to make feature comedy films in 1920. For the
1920 and through most of 1921, Arbuckle made nine feature films, all of
did well. By this time he was making a million dollars a year, and his
popularity was rivaled only by that of his friend Charlie Chaplin.
All this would come screeching to a halt though on Labor
1921. Roscoe and some friends rented some rooms in San Francisco and held a big party.
during the event, some women crashed it. One of them, an out of work
Virginia Rappe, went into a bedroom to lie down. Some people claimed
Arbuckle was in the room with her alone. In any case, the young girl
died of a
ruptured bladder. The Hearst newspapers had a field day with the story,
painting Arbuckle as a rapist and a murderer. Some of the more
implied that he was too fat to function normally, and frustrated by
raped the woman with a bottle.
This was Hollywood's
first major scandal. People were up in arms and Hollywood was scared. Arbuckle was
three times, the first two juries ending up deadlocked. One April 8th,
the third jury took only ten minutes to find Arbuckle innocent of all
The jury even apologized to Arbuckle. It was too little too late
career was in ruins. (It is now generally accepted that Rappe died from
Many state censor boards banned the showing of Arbuckle's
films. William Hays, hired to lead a watch-dog group to police the
morals of films coming out of the studios, banned Arbuckle from
films... ten days after the comedian was acquitted on all charges.
His career was over... almost.
Some of his friends gave him jobs directing, he used the
William Goodrich, and he was able to scrape out a living.
Then in 1932 he got a break. Vitaphone
hired him to star in a series of
comedy shorts and it was clear that he hadn't lost his touch. He made six shorts and on the strength of
those half dozen Warner Brothers signed him to a feature film contract
He died in bed that evening at the age of 46.
All six of Roscoe Arbuckle Vitaphone talkies are included in
this set, and they're great. Even though
he recycles gags from earlier comedies (a common practice in those days
DVD, TV, or even revival movie houses) Arbuckle is still creative and
hilarious. The first one is one of the
best. In Hey Pop!
Arbuckle stars as a short order cook of amazing talent who
adopts a young child that was left in the diner by his mother who is no
able to take care of him. The first half
has some great gags and shows off Arbuckle's juggling skills. He tosses a knife in the air, it spins a few
rotations and then lands point-first in the butcher block and he then
effortlessly flips a pancake over his head and catches it in the pan
back. When abandoned boy wanders into
the kitchen Arbuckle decides to raise him, even though it means loosing
job. While the second part of the film
will remind viewers of Chaplin's The Kid,
the execution of Arbuckle and his ward running from officials who want
him in an orphanage is drastically different.
Here it's played for laughs and his ingenious ways of getting
the police are hilarious.
Another great offering is Have You Bean, which has
Arbuckle and his partner, Fritz Hubert,
running a grocery store. They take from
gags from the Arbuckle film The Butcher
Boy and expand on them beautifully, and the first act ends with an
over-the-top flour fight that's not to be missed. There's
also a nice twist near the end that
works quite well.
As I said, all six of these films are fantastic, and the
only one that doesn't quite measure up to the rest is Tomalito. This was the
fourth Vitaphone movie that Arbuckle filmed, but it sat on a shelf and
released until after he died. In this
short Roscoe and his partner (Fritz Hubert again) travel south of the
the town of Tomalito
that his being terrorized by a ruthless general (Charles Judels). It must have looked good on paper but the end
result is just so-so. One of the main
is that Fritz Hubert and Charles Judels have most of the jokes and
acting as the straight man. Even at the
end, Hubert is the one who gives Judels his comeuppance rather than the
star. With that said, the short does
have its moments, especially the firing squad that can't shoot straight: After they execute a prisoner they throw
their guns onto the ground and run off for a beer.
Those six films would make it worth the purchase price by
itself, but there's a whole lot more.
The other 13 shorts are devoted to appearances by Shemp Howard. Best known as "The Forgotten Stooge" (he
replaced his brother, Curly Howard in the Three Stooges after Curly's
Shemp had a solid career in Hollywood
even before he joined the knock-about comedy team.
He was a talented comic, as these shorts
Having said that, he does not get star billing in any of
them, even though he manages to steal the show in.
Since he's not the focus, the results are
varied. Sometime's he's limited to a short
cameo (Paul Revere Jr.), but in
others he gets as much screen time as the lead (Here Comes
Flossie). Some of
the best of these include I Scream where star Gus Shy plays an ice
who is mistakenly hired by an insurance company to break up a gang war. The number one thug is played by Shemp and
the result is some wacky Stooge-like comedy.
Another stand out is Pugs
and Kisses that casts Shemp as a lazy boxing trainer (Dopey
Traynor) who teaches
egotistical fighter Slug Mosconi (Lionel Stander) a lesson about
with women after he looses a bout. It
has some great gags that work well and it kept me laughing. The same can be said of Corn on
the Cop where Shemp and Harry Gribon are a pair of hobos
who decide to market axle grease as a corn remover, 'Happy Foot Salve.' They run into a police officer, but his wife
mistakes them for her husband's nephews and mayhem ensues.
Though this latter section is uneven, there are some great
shorts and none of them are really horrible.
There are also appearances by Edgar Bergen & Charlie
star in one short), George Jessel, and an uncredited Jimmy Stewart in
The movies included in this collection are:
Hey, Pop! (1932)
Buzzin' Around (1932)
How've You Bean? (1933)
Close Relations (1933)
In the Ddough (1933)
Paul Revere Jr. (1933)
Salt Water Daffy (1933)
Howd' ya Like That (1933)
I Scream (1934)
The Wrong, Wrong, Trail (1934)
Here Comes Flossie! (1933)
Pugs and Kisses (1934)
Pure Feud (1934)
Corn on the Cop (1934)
Rambling 'round Radio Row (1934)
Very Close Veins (1934)
Art Trouble (1934)
The mono audio track sounds very good for films of this
age. There's a touch of background noise
in some shorts, but nothing distracting.
The voices are clear and it's easy to discern what's being said. What more could you want?
This full frame image is pretty amazing. None
to these films have been restored, but
they all look fantastic. There's some
very minor print damage (spots and dirt) here and there but that's it. The contrast is excellent and the level of
detail is surprisingly strong. Overall
these are some great looking movies.
This is a wonderful collection of some funny and entertaining
shorts. The last six Roscoe "Fatty"
Arbuckle movies are worth the price of admission alone, but the other
with Shemp Howard are very good too, though they vary a bit more in
quality. This is a great set that has some
comedy on it. Highly