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Slapstick Encyclopedia
Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9    by Gary Johnson -- page 7 of 9

Laurel and Hardy star in "Liberty."
(©1998 KINO ON VIDEO. All rights reserved.)

Volume 6
Hal Roach: The Lot of Fun

Volume 6 of the "Slapstick Encyclopedia" concentrates on one of the great comedy studios of the silent era: Hal Roach Studios. While Mack Sennett's Keystone Studio is usually regarded as America's most proficient assembly line for slapstick comedy, Hal Roach Studios refined and perfected the form, providing more elaborate storytelling and sophisticated narratives (in contrast to the manic, knockabout comedy of Keystone). Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase, and Our Gang are all closely associated with their work for Hal Roach.

This volume gets off to a roaring start with excerpts from four of Laurel & Hardy's best silent shorts--"Angora Love," "You're Darn Tootin'," "Liberty," and "The Battle of the Century." During the '20s, Laurel & Hardy provided Hal Roach Studios with its most successful comedy team. While Keystone comedies emphasized speed and hyperactive motion, Laurel & Hardy emphasized comedy of character. Their comedies relied on the delicate interplay between the two leads. They created carefully modulated rhythms that start out slowly before gradually reaching absurdly frantic peaks. In "The Battle of the Century," for example, a simple banana peel on a sidewalk causes a baker to fall, precipitating a free-for-all that eventually involves everyone within throwing distance. And in "You're Darn Tootin'," an irritated Stan throws Ollie's horn into the street, beginning an hilarious exchange where the entire street is soon filled with men hopping from Stan's kicks.

Harold Lloyd stars in "Get Out and Get Under."
(©1998 KINO ON VIDEO. All rights reserved.)

Also included on this video, you'll find Harold Lloyd in one of his best shorts for Hal Roach, "Get Out and Get Under" (1920). By this time, Lloyd was beginning to perfect his American go-getter character. Here, his character is so absorbed in his own actions that he can't see how he's affecting others. When he accidentally runs his car through the wall of a garage and into his neighbor's garden, he looks at the car and says, "Didn't do a bit of damage!"--oblivious to the fact that the neighbor's garden has been devastated. Lloyd also supplies several good sight gags, as when his car breaks down and he literally crawls inside the hood while fixing it.

Harold Lloyd makes a cameo appearance in "Dogs of War" (1923), but don't believe the hyperbole on the video box cover: Lloyd doesn't "join forces with Our Gang" in this short. It's all Our Gang. Lloyd's appearance is very brief. But Lloyd had more than a passing familiarity with Our Gang, for Mary Korman (Our Gang's sweetheart) was the daughter of his still photographer, and Jackie David was the younger brother of Lloyd's wife and leading lady, Mildred David. For people only familiar with the Our Gang troupe of the '30s and '40s, "Dogs of War" should prove to be a real surprise, for the Our Gang troupe of the '20s was just as good as--if not better than--their more famous latter day cousins. In this outing, the kids create havoc on a movie studio backlot, with little Farina (Allen Clayton Hoskins) getting them into all sorts of trouble.

Also on this volume of the "Slapstick Encyclopedia," you'll find comedies starring Will Rogers, Stan Laurel, Snub Pollard, and Charley Chase. Will Rogers isn't normally thought of as a slapstick comedian, but Kino has unearthed a short called "Big Moments for Little Pictures" (1924) where he imitates a Keystone Kops comedy. "Oranges and Lemons" (1923) stars Stan Laurel as a mischievous sprite who wreaks havoc in an orchard. His character is nothing like the one he would play when teamed with Oliver Hardy. One of the highlights of this hectic one-reeler is a wonderful, acrobatic maneuver that Laurel performs with a pair of swinging doors while hiding from the orchard foreman. "It's a Gift" (1923) stars Snub Pollard. After Harold Lloyd left Hal Roach studios, Snub Pollard was promoted to fill the void, and this comedy is one of his best. Pollard plays an inventor with a bevy of Rube Goldberg contraptions. He prepares his breakfast by pulling a selection of ropes over his bed, and he rides to work in a bullet-shaped vehicle that he propels with a giant magnet. And "Fluttering Hearts" (1927) is one of Charley Chase's funniest comedies. He performs an hilarious dance with a mannequin while trying to bluff his way into a private club (every men who enters the club must be accompanied by a woman). This is a wildly inventive comedy that serves as testament to Chase's comedic genius. He was one of the great silent comedians.

This volume of the "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is one of the best in the set. If you can only afford a couple of the videos, make sure this is one of them.


page 7 of 9


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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