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 performer.
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 Hardy.
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 pleased.
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.