The clowns of the American silent screen bring laughter to a new generation in this wonderful box set, featuring 53 short films from the era's funniest comic talents: Laurel and Hardy, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Will Rogers, Ben Turpin and more. Meticulously prepared for DVD with fresh new musical scores, "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is a unique collection of silent comedy gems.
A veritable gold mine of rarities and little-known treats, Slapstick Encyclopedia
lives up to its title as a stupendous compendium of silent-era comedy. Spanning the entire spectrum of slapstick from 1909 to 1927, this definitive collection (curated by film historians David Shepard and Joe Adamson) dutifully credits Keystone Cops creator Mack Sennett as the founder of the slapstick phenomenon. But it reaches far beyond Sennett (who alienated most of his popular stars) to acknowledge nearly every major and minor slapstick star and style. The development of slapstick, which had its roots in vaudeville, is witnessed chronologically, mixing the manic pie-fight sensibility of Sennett's Keystone hits with the lesser-known, more sophisticated parlor-room comedy of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, while legendary black vaudevillian Bert Williams plies his popular trade in a Biograph short from 1916.
Early appearances by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Ben Turpin, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, and others demonstrate the gradual emergence of the popular personalities (like Chaplin's Little Tramp) that would dominate silent comedy at its peak, establishing timeless screen icons and forever altering Hollywood's way of doing business. But the real strength of this set is its wide scope, unearthing neglected talents ripe for rediscovery (like Charley Bowers and Larry Semon), and allowing the viewer to witness the evolution of gags from simple improvisation to the elaborately planned chase-oriented routines that emerged in the early 1920s. With print quality ranging from good to pristine, and original musical accompaniment by six of the world's leading silent-movie musicians, this 18-hour, 50-film laugh-athon is surely one of the finest DVD sets ever produced. --Jeff Shannon