I want to give this set five stars, but I can not since the films were not restored, and have been mastered from 16mm instead of 35mm films. If a Rank 16mm Film to Video system was used, the transfer would have been better. However, except for the first Chaplin film, all are sharp enough and very watch-able.
The stars of this DVD are on the first and third disc while the second disc is mainly obscure comedians. With few exceptions I have found the comedies truly enjoyable.
The DVD cover boasts there are 17 comedies that have never been released to DVD before, but I know of three titles that have been on DVD for quite a while.
1) Charlie Chaplin's "LAUGHING GAS" has been released on LaserLight's "ESSENTIAL CHAPLIN COLLECTION" for years, but this copy is much sharper with nicer contrast. So the upgrade is worth it, however I understand that David Sheppard is busy restoring the Chaplin Keystone Comedies so this upgrade may be out done.
2) Stan Laurel's "SMITHY" has been on at least two Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy Alone DVD releases, one from Alpha Video and another from Passport. In both cases this copy is superior with better contrast.
3) Larry Semon & Oliver Hardy comedy "GOLF" has been released on the Passport Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy collection, but again this copy is better.
The new music is nice, but I have heard more lively performances to the Chaplin films here that seemed to suit the style of the comedies better. It may just be a matter of taste.
The COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT: (these are rather minor)
The letters "RCDVD" pop up in yellow at the bottom right corner of the picture from time to time to try to copyright these public domain films.
Almost every comedy starts out with a memorial to the founder of Essex Films, but with no explanation as to who they were and what they had to do with the films in this DVD. Their name is not on any of the comedies. I faintly remember that name from the 1980's as a film distributor to collectors.
Every comedy starts off with a generic Reel Classics DVD title card & its owner takes credit at the end. Most DVD companies just put their logo at the beginning of the disc once.
There seems to be a DVD authoring error. If you play the titles individually, you don't always return to the main menu at the end of the comedy short. Sometimes you jump to the submenu of another film, other times the DVD player just shuts down.
Oh, there is a "Bonus" short at the end of the first disc, but you can forget about it. It is a clip compilation of silent comedies & newsroom out-takes made to look like an educational film. The picture quality is very poor and it comes off like a school project. You end up saying to your self "Oh that film, oh that film, oh that film,....". If there is any historic importance to this compilation, it is not explained to the viewer.
DISC 1 (Chaplin & his entourage)
CAUGHT IN THE RAIN - Charlie Chaplin (1914) one of the weakest quality prints starts off this set. It looks washed out & soft. But don't let that disappoint you, the rest will be better.
LAUGHING GAS - Charlie Chaplin (1914) Early primitive comedy has more brick-in-the-face humor than his later work. You won't find the little tramp on this DVD set.
A SUBMARINE PIRATE - Sid Chaplin (1915)
CUPID'S RIVAL - Billy West & Oliver Hardy (1917) This is an example of one of the Chaplin imitators, Billy, working with an up and coming comic, Oliver, who would team with Stan 10 years later.
THE BOND - Charlie Chaplin (1918) Now here is a rarity! A Promotional short for bonds.
Bonus Short: A clip reel of silent comedies.
DISC 2 (the really obscure comedians)
GOLF - Larry Semon & Oliver Hardy (1922) Yet another of Oliver Hardy's pairings before he met Stan.
LIZZIE'S OF THE FIELD - Billy Bevan (1924)
HEAVY LOVE - The Ton Of Fun (1926) Yes, that was the star's character name & he uses it well as he tries to build a house.
UPPERCUTS - Jack Duffy (1926) An Al Christie Studios comedy.
BEAUTY AND THE BUMP - Perry Murdock (1927)
RECKLESS ROSIE - Frances Lee (1929) A pre-code comedy where clothing runs low.
DISC 3 (back to the classic comics)
LUKE'S MOVIE MUDDLE - Harold Lloyd (1916) Before the "Glasses" character, Harold played "Lonesome Luke". Here Luke is an usher at a Nickelodeon theater.
PAY YOUR DUES - Harold Lloyd (1919) Here Harold plays the "Glasses" character as he goes through an initiation to join a club.
NONSKID KID, THE - Eddie Boland & Sunshine Sammy (of Our Gang fame) (1922) The chase is on for a runaway car.
SOLD AT AUCTION - Snub Pollard (1923) Snub accidentally gets involved in an auction in this ultra fast paced slapstick gem.
SMITHY - Stan Laurel (1924) Forshadowing Stan's later comedy gem with Oliver Hardy in "The Finishing Touch", here Stan is mistakenly put in charge of building a house.
FORGOTTEN SWEETIES - Charley Chase (1927) You won't forget this marital mix-up as Charley meets an old girlfriend in the apartment across the hall, and her jealous husband.