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Slapstick Encyclopedia
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Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Normand in "Fatty and Mabel Adrift."
(©1998 KINO ON VIDEO. All rights reserved.)

Volume 4
Keaton, Arbuckle and St. John

Volume Four of the "Slapstick Encyclopedia" features some of the best work of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. You'll find Arbuckle working with Charlie Chaplin in the 1914 Keystone Studios' "The Rounders," teaming with Buster Keaton in "Oh, Doctor!" (1917) and "The Garage" (1920), and co-starring with Mabel Normand and Al St. John in "Fatty and Mabel Adrift" (1916). In "The Rounders," Arbuckle and Chaplin play drunks who stumble home to their less-than-thrilled wives, who promptly kick them out--leaving Arbuckle and Chaplin to team up and invade a restaurant. "Oh, Doctor!" and "The Garage" allow us to see how Arbuckle and Keaton worked together. "Oh, Doctor!" was one of their first comedies. Arbuckle takes the lead, with Keaton in a supporting role, but by "The Garage" three years later, Keaton and Arbuckle share screen time equally. In "Oh, Doctor!" Arbuckle plays a doctor with less-than-ethical methods. At one point, he even runs his car into a crowd of people and then passes out his business cards to the victims. Keaton's role places him largely on the sidelines, as the doctor's son. As Arbuckle punches and smacks Keaton, the Great Stone Face uncharacteristically begins screaming and crying.

"The Garage" was Arbuckle and Keaton's last comedy together. Keaton's Stone Face still hadn't arrived yet; in "The Garage" he cries, laughs, and mugs. But the Keaton pratfalls are well in evidence here, especially those that involve a rotating platform in the garage. Keaton spins and crashes headfirst, bouncing off of his own noggin before twisting and tumbling on the ground. "The Garage" is a wildly inventive comedy, with loads of good sight gags. In one scene a dog attacks Keaton and rips off his pants; however, Keaton uses his knife to cut out a Scotish kilt for himself from a billboard. And in another scene, Keaton and Arbuckle (as firemen) get halfway to the fire when they realize they're wearing the wrong hats, so they return to the firehouse/garage to get the right ones.

However, the best of the Arbuckle comedies may well be "Fatty and Mabel Adrift" (1916). If Arbuckle has a masterpiece, this is it. Arbuckle plays a hired hand who falls for the farmer's daughter (Mabel Normand), but the son (Al St. John, Arbuckle's real-life nephew) of the neighboring farmer wants to marry her--so that the farm lands can be united. Arbuckle wins her, though, and they get married and move to a beach cottage. St. John pursues them and hires a band of robbers to help him push the house out to sea. Fatty and Mabel wake up as their beds are floating on the waist high water. As outlandish as the plot might be, some of the best moments in this short come from the quieter moments, such as the ingenius vignettes that present us with the major characters: a heart-shaped vignette shows us the smiling Fatty, and another heart-shaped vignette shows us the demure Mabel. A well-placed arrow from Cupid brings the two hearts together, in a heart that swells, while Al. St. John watches and stews.

Al St. John moves to the forefront in "The Iron Mule" (1925), directed after Arbuckle had been banished from the movie screen as the result of an infamous scandal. Nevermind that Arbuckle was acquitted of any wrongdoing, his career in front of the camera was ruined, but he continued making comedies, such as this one, which features the same quirky train built for Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality. Buster Keaton himself takes a starring role in "The Boat" (1921), one of his very finest shorts (in a newly remastered and orchestrally-scored version that improves on the version included with Kino's The Art of Buster Keaton). Keaton stars as husband who has built a huge boat in his basement. After nearly demolishing their house while getting the boat through the small basement door, Keaton takes his family on a watery outing.

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Intro Page

Vol.1: In the Beginning:
Film Comedy Pioneers

Vol.2: Keystone Tonight!
The Mack Sennett Comedies

Vol.3: Funny Girls

Vol.4: Keaton, Arbuckle and St. John

Vol.5: Chaplin & Co.
The Music Hall Tradition

Vol.6: Hal Roach: The Lot of Fun

Vol.7: The Race is On!

Vol.8: Tons of Fun:
Comedy's Anarchic Fringe


"Slapstick Encyclopedia" is an eight-cassette boxed set from KINO ON VIDEO. Each video has a running time of approximately two hours. Volume 1: "In the Beginning: Film Comedy Pioneers." Volume 2: "Keystone Tonight! The Mack Sennett Comedies." Volume 3: "Funny Girls." And Volume 4: "Keaton, Arbuckle and St. John." Volume 5: "Chaplin & Co.: The Music Hall Tradition." Volume 6: "Hal Roach: The Lot of Fun." Volume 7: "The Race is On!" Volume 8: "Tons of Fun: Comedy's Anarchic Fringe." Suggested retail price: $24.95 each. For more information, we suggest you check out the Kino Web site:


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