[box cover]

Slapstick Encyclopedia

More than fifty short comedies — spread across 18 hours and five discs — from the decades before the "talkies" arrived in 1927. On hand are samples of fine funny business from the celebrated masters of the form — Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Laurel & Hardy, Mabel Normand — plus many men and women who aren't household names almost a century after audiences first saw their films, though some perhaps should be. Carefully selected films coupled with textual info about them provide a bird's-eye overview of the formative years of screen comedy, including some material that's funnier and more inventive than a great deal of what Hollywood's pumping out right now. The great comedy producers Mack Sennett and Hal Roach are reverently represented. There may not be enough Harold Lloyd here, but Gloria Swanson probably wouldn't want you seeing her being tied to a railroad track by Wallace Beery, only to be saved by Teddy the Keystone Dog. Film preservationist David Shepard gives us his typically fastidious job restoring prints that are close to 100 years old. Definition, clarity, and black-white levels are generally very good, considering. Color tinting is used in some films, a common practice of the time and a welcome addition here. Of course, some damage caused by age and wear are evident, but it's never a showstopper. The films here are shown in their original full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratios and their proper projection speed, in some cases for the first time ever on home video. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio shows off the new and, far more often than not, mindfully appropriate musical scores composed fresh for this set. Not just for collectors and aficionados, here are some of the funniest movies you could ever see by this many dead people. Five individual keep-cases in a box set.
—Mark Bourne

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