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Kino on Video presents
Slapstick Symposium: The Charley Chase Collection Volume 2 (1925-1926)

"I'll hold the steamship company responsible if we drown."
- Charley Chase in Isn't Life Terrible

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: September 12, 2005

Stars: Charley Chase, Oliver Hardy, Katherine Grant
Other Stars: Jane Sherman, Lucien Littlefield, James Finlayson, William Gillespie, Mildred June, Stuart Holmes, William Orlamond, Corliss Palmer
Director: Leo McCarey

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (slapstick violence, ethnic humor, attempted suicide)
Run Time: 01h:55m:54s
Release Date: September 13, 2005
UPC: 738329043223
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B+A- B

DVD Review

Charley Chase doesn't get nearly the accolades that some silent comics receive, but perhaps Kino's Slapstick Symposium series will help set that right. This second volume of Chase two-reel comedies, from the height of his powers in 1925-1926, finds him in excellent form and the films, helmed by Leo McCarey (who would go on to direct many of Laurel & Hardy's best) are full of laugh-out-loud moments. Chase's character, a somewhat dapper fellow, gets into endless scrapes, specializing in the most outlandish situations possible. The combination of the situation and his reactions make these timeless classics.

His Wooden Wedding (1925) finds Charley about to marry Katherine Grant, when a rejected suitor decides to derail things by telling Charley that she has a wooden leg. When she limps in, having sprained her ankle, Charley panics and calls off the wedding. The rejected suitor, not content with spoiling the wedding, decides to get hold of the family diamond as well. An inebriated Charley boards ship, unaware that the thief has tucked the diamond into his hat and is trying desperately to get it back. It's very funny and endlessly inventive; there's plenty of amusement here.

Katherine Grant is Charley's wife in two more 1925 comedies presented here. In Isn't Life Terrible, Charley decides to win an ocean voyage for the family (including obnoxious brother-in-law Oliver Hardy) by selling massive amounts of fountain pens. After the requisite fountain pen gags, the rest of the film is devoted to the disastrous voyage aboard the Davy Jones, a ship on its last legs. There's plenty of opportunity for comedy in this situation and Chase milks it for everything. Hardy's quite funny too in a supporting role quite removed from his later Ollie character. In Innocent Husbands, Katherine has turned to spiritualism. Distrustful of Charley's integrity, she holds a seance to find out whether he is philandering. A series of events bring him under suspicion both from her and from the hotel detective (Lucien Littlefield), but he manages to use the seance to turn the tables on her. Some of the gags are rote, but they're pulled off with panache and style.

Dog Shy (1926) features a wildly complicated plot based on Charley picking up a telephone call from a young woman (Mildred June) who is being forced by her family to marry a nobleman (Stuart Holmes). Charley gets a job as a butler to the nobleman and misunderstands his instructions to give Duke (the family dog) a bath, thinking he needs to give one to the nobleman. Even when he gets things straight, it's a mess, culminating in the indelible sequence in which he gives the dog a bath by getting in the tub in full tux along with Duke. The film is completely nuts, with a three-way finale that's a total hoot. The pacing is incredibly brisk, and by the end one feels like a whole feature has gone by.

The final film on the disc is Bromo and Juliet (1926), one of Chase's best-known films. He has convinced Madge (Corliss Palmer) to marry him if he plays Romeo to her Juliet in a local stage production. Along the way, however, he is accused of being a bootlegger and forcibly made drunk just before he goes onstage, to comic effect. It's one of the more straight-forward of the shorts on the disc, but it's still quite funny. Chase deserves much more credit for his comedy than he gets, and this disc would be an excellent introduction to his pictures. While it's one of the thinner Slapstick Symposium offerings, what's here is all golden.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Unlike The Oliver Hardy Collection volume of the Slapstick Symposium, there's no sign of PAL conversion problems here. The picture is clean and detailed throughout, with a modest amount of wear and speckling as one would expect for the era. The films are sepia toned, though it's not clear whether that was the original form they took.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: Neil Brand contributes a vivacious piano score to the shorts; although he does some modest mickey-mousing, it's within the acceptable range and it's more than made up for by the jazz-inflected rhythms that he uses to breathe an exuberant life into these shorts. The recording quality is fine and there are no issues regarding distortion or hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus short subject
Extras Review: Since there are only five shorts in the program proper, it's thoughtful of Kino to include a sixth film, starring Chase's look-alike brother, Paul Parrott. Shine 'em Up (1922) is a loosely connected series of gags that lacks a clear narrative thread; it feels like the ideas for three or four different one-reelers tucked into one. But Parrott does display a good comic talent as well, though he was shortly thereafter too unwell to continue with his film career as a side effect of mustard gas during World War I. A short (5m:17s) biography of Chase, narrated by film historian Serge Bromberg, is included to give a little background to Chase newcomers. Each film is given four chapter stops and there's a handy 'Play All' button too.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

An underrated comedy genius gets another volume in Kino's first rate series. The transfer is fine and the score is excellent, and there's even a bonus short.

 


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