The short version of the review: If
you enjoyed the first collection, or comedy shorts from the 30's, run
out and buy this... it's hilarious.
The long version: The Sony
Choice Collection, that studio's MOD (Manufactured On Demand) program,
releases the rest of one of the Columbia films staring a master
comedian with Charley Chase Shorts
Volume 2. It's a hilarious collection of 12 short subjects that
really illustrates that Charley Chase is a terribly under-rated
Background: James Parrott started out working for Al Christie's studio
in 1912 and by 1915 moved up to Mack Sennett's outfit. There he honed
his skills, both in front of and behind the camera, taking the name
Charley Chase when he appeared in films. In 1920 he made the jump to
the Hal Roach Studios and a year later he was running the place. As
Director-General at Roach, he oversaw all of the productions with the
sole exception of Harold Lloyd's films.
When Lloyd left Roach in 1923, another comic was needed on the lot and
Parrott went in front of the camera once again. Directing himself for a
time, Leo McCarey eventually took over the directing of his shorts and
the two created some amazing and hilarious movies before McCarey went
on to cast a tall thin Roach actor (Stan Laurel) together with a much
larger man who usually played the heavy (Oliver Hardy) and made movie
history. He managed to make the transition to sound without any
problems (he had a nice singing voice that he would show off whenever
he could in his films) and was one of the most popular comedians still
doing shorts in the 1930's, alongside another Hal Roach hit, Laurel and
In 1936 Roach stopped making shorts. Chase was put into a feature film,
and when that turned into a disaster (it was eventually edited down to
a two-reel short and released as Neighborhood House), Chase left the
studio he had been with for 15 years. He found work at Columbia and
there he teamed up with veteran director Del Lord for a series of
shorts that are still funny today. Unfortunately the pair only had four
years to work together before Charley died of a heart attack in 1940 at
the age of 47.
It's interesting to see how Chase integrated himself with the wild and
wacky style that the Columbia shorts (and director Del Lord) were known
for at that time. His work at Roach usually started somewhat
realistically and proceeded from there. Chase wasn't a daredevil like
Lloyd or an acrobat like Keaton. Though he was at home doing slapstick,
his films were more situational comedies rather than maniacal slugfests
that made The Three Stooges stars. At Columbia he came up with a nice
compromise... his comedies there still had one foot grounded in reality
(or at least they tired) but the situation would become increasingly
bizarre (and funny) as the movie went on.
This collection features some great shorts that show how well Chase was
able to fit in with the studio system in place at Columbia (something
that his peers Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon were unable to do). The
disc starts out with his very first short at Columbia, The Grand Hooter, and it is a hoot
(pardon the horrible pun). In it Charley plays a husband who spends way
too much time with his friends at the Hoot Owl Lodge, according to his
wife. He protests that he doesn't ("we only meet five nights a week!")
yet decides to placate her by going on a vacation and promising to give
up the lodge. That, naturally, doesn't work as everyone at the hotel
they go to from the desk clerk to the guy across the hall are loyal
Hoot Owls. When a lodge member convinces Charley to help him woo a
particular woman, Charley's wife thinks he's fooling around on her. Add
a murderously jealous husband and you've got a great comedy.
The wonderful thing about this short is how well it hangs together.
Many shorts from this time were little more than a series of vaguely
related skits where one scene had almost nothing to do with the others.
Not so with this one (and most of the offerings on this disc). Here one
scene sets up the next one and they segue into one another seamlessly.
The gags that fill the show are funny, and the ending works out nicely.
As many critics have noted over the years, Chase's comedy involves his
character (who is referred to as Charley (or Charles) Chase in all of
these shorts) being put in embarrassing situations. Viewers of this
disc get that in spades. One of the better shorts include shows what
happens when Charley accidently gives a mink coat he's holding for a
group of showgirls to his fiancee, and then takes her out to the club
where they're performing. Another one features a timid Chase pretending
to be an insatiable playboy to impress a client, not realizing that the
woman he's bragging about seducing is the jealous man's wife. He makes
the audience howl with laughter while they're squirming inside.
There isn't a bad short on the disc (though Teacher's Pest was a bit weak).
These shorts show a talented comedian (as well as a good singer... he
shows off his voice in two shorts) at the height of his power. Cleaver
and well constructed, these are gems.
The films included in this collection are:
The Big Squirt (1937)
Calling All Doctors (1937)
From Bad to Worse (1937)
The Grand Hooter (1937)
His Bridal Fright (1940)
Many Sappy Returns (1938)
The Nightshirt Bandit (1938)
Pie a la Maid (1938)
The Sap Takes a Wrap (1939)
Teacher's Pest (1939)
Time Out for Trouble (1938)
The Wrong Miss Wright (1937)
These twelve shorts arrive on a single DVD-R in a standard keepcase.
The two-channel mono soundtrack sounds very good for movies that are
70-75 years old. Though limited by the technology of the time, there
isn't any distracting background noise or egregious flaws.
The full frame video is very impressive. Restored from 35mm negatives
these all look like they were filmed yesterday. The image is clean and
clear and there's an impressive amount of detail. Viewers will be very
Unfortunately, there are no extras.
I think I enjoyed this set even more than the first one, if only
because it has twelve shorts verse the nine on volume one. They're
funny and very entertaining as well as looking spectacular. Highly Recommended.