One of my absolute favorite compilations of silent film shorts is Undercrank Productions disc The Marcel Perez Collection. An amazing and totally forgotten silent clown, Perez made hilarious films that were also creative and technically innovative. The only down-side was that the 10 shorts on that disc were all of the films of Marcel Perez that were available at the time. Luckily, more have turned up so Undercrack has released a second volume, appropriately titled The Marcel Perez Collection Volume 2, filled with eight more offerings from this silent clown. Just as fun and entertaining as the first volume, this is a disc you'll want to add to your collection.
Perez started out in Europe but immigrated to the US at the outbreak of World War I. This collection starts off with one film from his European days, "The Near-Sighted Cyclist." This typical one-reeler is shows off Marcel's ability to do slapstick and was a big hit at the time and helped launch Perez' career. It's a simple story of a messenger boy with poor eyesight who has to ride across town with disastrous results.
The collection continues with a wonderful sendup of the action melodramas that were popular at the time, "Some Hero." A hilarious film and my favorite on this disc, Perez is an action hero that would fit in well in a current big-budget Hollywood adventure film. In this one he fights villains to save the girl, chews through thick ropes when tied up, drinks copious amounts of gas to supercharge himself, and even gets a safe dropped on him. A great gag-film that is sure to please.
Next up is the comical and slightly bizarre "Lend Me Your Wife." After Tweedle Dee is kicked out of his boarding house for his inability to pay his bill (and for hitting his landlady in the face with a piece of toast and jelly) he is taken in by a kindly electrician and his wife. Things turn around when the destitute man received a telegraph from his rich uncle. The relative is coming for a visit and is intending to leave his fortune to Tweedle Dee if, and only if, he is married. The wily young man comes up with a plan: pretend he's married to his friend's wife! What could go wrong?
Other highlights include "Oh! What a Day" where Perez takes his girl to the Jersey shore and accidently gets his car drunk when he fills it with booze rather than gas, and the delightful "Chickens in Turkey." This latter film has Perez taken aboard an all-female crewed boat where he has to dress as a woman so the female captain won't claim him as her own. Plots involving cross-dressing were not typically rare in silent comedies, but this one is particularly good.
The films in this collection are:
The Short-Sighted Cyclist (1907)
Lend Me Your Wife (1916)
Some Hero (1916)
A Scrambled Honeymoon (1916)
Oh! What a Day (1918)
Chickens in Turkey (1919)
Friday the 13th (1923) (2-minute fragment)
All of the films are accompanied by a very nice piano score composed and performed by Ben Model. The music works very well, creating an atmosphere as well as accentuating the action on screen. The sound quality is great and I didn't hear any glitches in the recording or encoding.
These films are very rare, often only one print exists and sometimes even that is incomplete. They have all been preserved by major film archives (namely the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art) and generally look very good. Overall these films are clear with decent contrast and good definition. There are some print defects, scratches and dirt, on most of the offerings, but this can't be helped. Many of these films exist in only a single print so there aren't multiple copies where the highest quality version of each scene can be pieced together. What you see on this disc is what exists for the most part. Unfortunately, there some sections missing from a couple of the films, and the intertitles have also been lost on a few. The missing parts don't ruin the viewing experience and you can follow the story pretty well. We can be thankful that what has survived is in very decent shape and gives us a good look at a woefully forgotten comedian.
There really aren't any extras, though, as with other Undercrank releases, the disc starts out with a trio of squares on the screen and a caption informing the viewer that they should be seeing shapes where all of the sides are the same length. This lets know if your DVD player and monitor are set up properly to view 4:3 images. A simple but effective tool.
This is another great disc of excellent but extremely rare films. Marcel Perez was an incredibly talented and funny comedian and these shorts show are a fantastic addition to the previous volume of his shorts. Check this one out as this comes Highly Recommended.