| by Gary Johnson -- page 1 of 9|
The Keystone Kops, with Fatty Arbuckle on the right.
(©1998 KINO ON VIDEO. All rights reserved.)
Note: Now that Kino has released the second set of videos in their "Slapstick Encyclopedia" series, we've revised our original article to include all eight videos.
It's not easy to find silent comedy on television anymore, especially one- and two-reel shorts. Oh, Turner Classic Movies might throw in a silent short on occasion, but they never announce beforehand when they'll be playing. So good luck catching them.
That's why Kino's latest series is such an important addition to their video library. The "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is an eight-video boxed set that includes over 50 vintage silent comedy shorts. You'll find many of the comedy giants represented in this series, including Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Harold Lloyd, and Harry Langdon. However, you'll also find many comedians who deserve more recognition, such as Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Charley Chase, Billy Bevin, John Bunny, Charley Bowers, Larry Semon, and the French comedian Max Linder. But it's the comic genius of Mack Sennett that is felt most strongly throughout this set.
At some point in their careers, almost all of the great American silent comedians worked on the Keystone Studios lot for Mack Sennett, and a more fertile ground for producing comedians the world has never seen. The Keystone world was inhabited by bathing beauties who rolled on the beach, crazy-eyed cops who stormed out of the police station en masse, mustache-twirling villains with wild eyes and gnashing teeth, and anxious pit bull dogs that eagerly sank their teeth into the posteriors of both heroes and villains alike. This was a world where pie fights abounded, where cars frequently fell to pieces (or were smashed pancake thin), where boats almost always sprung leaks, and where malt mixers had an unusual propensity for exploding.