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Slapstick Encyclopedia

Stan Laurel , Oliver Hardy , Charles Chaplin , Buster Keaton    Unrated   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 301.96
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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

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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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to Silents...with Raucous Laughter Sept. 4 2002
There are some great and not-so-great items in this set, but all are of interest, if you like silent comedies. I recommend the 3 shorts each by Harry Langdon and Harold Lloyd (with one caveat to be discussed for "Haunted Spooks"), the rare version of Buster Keaton's "The Boat," some of the solo efforts by Stan Laurel (of later Laurel & Hardy fame), the "Hairbreadth Harry" short entitled "Danger Ahead" (based on a 1920's comic strip and one of the most ridiculously inspired things I've ever seen), the teaming of Charlie Chaplin and "Fatty" Arbuckle in "The Rounders" (where they each try to top one another on screen), and the delirious short by Charley Bowers (the only successful comedian/animator in film history--who incorporates his bizarre animation into his film shorts).
You can see so much here, as to the development of the careers of famous silent comedians. See Buster Keaton's crying and mugging hysterics while with "Fatty" Arbuckle develop into his more familiar stoic "Great Stone Face." See Stan Laurel go from frenetic nasty idiot on screen to playing the more sublime "Stanley" in the Laurel and Hardy shorts. See early Harold Lloyd shorts where his character has a bit more of an edge. Wonder why Ben Turpin had a career at all. All along marvel at the wonderful, appropriate musical accompaniment, sometimes on the odd "Fotoplayer."
The caveat? Well, nothing and I mean nothing has been censored and some very politically incorrect moments also make the cut, a few of which can make for some startling viewing for modern sensibilities. Then again, these films are 75 to 90 years old, and that should be borne in mind. In particular, I'm thinking of "The Detectress" and "Haunted Spooks" and parts of the Bert Williams short as rather blatant offenders.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great value and packaging! May 28 2002
By Ingalls
This must have been a labor of love! A collection of over 50 silent comedy shorts, nearly 16 hours of silent comedy! Lots of little jewels here - rare Harold Lloyd, Langdon, Hardy, silent film comediennes, etc. The music is new and appropriate. The booklet is first rate, as is the packaging and artwork. At a dollar a film, you are getting your money's worth especially since many of these are not available on DVD elsewhere. Many of these films I have never heard of and I have been watching silent films for twenty years.I found more than 95% of them to be very entertaining. Some of them are close to a hundred years old and provide a rare glimpse into a world that would have been lost if it was not for the camera. If you love silent films, this is heaven! Occasionally crude, very physical slapstick (which I never got but apparently early immigrant audiences loved) is here but plenty of fun gags, cute visual humor, early "sit com" type humor can also be found here. The title "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is misleading as many of these films are not slapstick, they are early comedy shorts. Some are so sophisticated that I realized that I had underestimated the makers and audience back then. My only beef is that it is hard to navigate. Once you start one of the shorts, you are stuck watching the whole thing - you can't go to a particular scene. If you want a specific scene, you have to watch the whole film. You can easily find a film (there are 8-12 films on each disc) but you can't go to anything speciifc in the film. A minor complaint for the best, most entertaining purchase I have made all year. I definitely got my money's worth - and then some - here. The prints range from excellent to average - nothing is unwatchable. Most are from the Blackhawk series of films. Highly recommended to all silent film lovers!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sure to entertain for hours on end. Feb. 8 2003
The Slapstick Encyclopedia is chock full of entertaining, rare movies from the earliest days of silent movies. Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Stan Laurel without Oliver Hardy, Oliver Hardy without Stan Laurel, Bustard Keaton, Hal Roach comedies, Harold Loyd in Haunted Spooks, Harry Langdon, Will Rogers, Keystone cops...all the unforgettable greats, you may have only read about in books, and rarely seen, doing the antics that once made movies so special. Included is the rarest of rare, a 1916 film starring Great black entertainer Bert Williams doing some of the comic routines that made him famous and part of America's conscience for decades after his death. Sure to entertain for hours on end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facinating and rare silent short comedies May 16 2002
By A Customer
It is wonderful that these rare shorts are released in such good condition. The remastering was well done, from what seems to be the best films available, and the films are at the correct speed. I have only two reasons not to give this a Five, and
it is because the endings of the films seem to be clipped short and the credits are not presented. Also, The producers of these discs should have given more of the history of these films. That said, I am a silent film buff who is very happy to have this in my collection.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More info about this set July 8 2002
By Ingalls
I previously reviewed this set but wanted to add a few comments. Included here is the incredible film "Now you tell one" by Charlie Bowers. Bowers looks like Keaton but out Keatons Keaton! After years of working in animation, Bowers took his surreal special effects into film. The result is jaw dropping! Wait until you see him 'grow" cats - and watch out for the little mouse with the revolver!
Monty Banks gives us one of the most thrilling chases ever seen in film in "chasing choo-choos". It looks like he did all of his stunts here and it is amazing that he lived to tell about it!
Definitely a great collection. Where else can you get silent films for about a dollar each? Do I like all of them? No. But with over 50 films, there is plenty here to enjoy and thrill to.
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