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

Billy Bevin readies his swing in "Wandering Willies."
(©1998 KINO ON VIDEO. All rights reserved.)

Volume 2
Keystone Tonight! The Mack Sennett Comedies

Volume Two of the "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is devoted exclusively to Mack Sennett comedies. These are some of the craziest, most manic comedies ever made. However, the volume begins with one of the most understated comedies to emerge from Keystone Studios--Harry Langdon's "Saturday Afternoon" (1926). Harry Langdon was one of the greatest screen comedians, but his best films are relatively few in numbers. Not until he began working with writers Frank Capra and Arthur Ripley did he really hit his stride. As James Agee said, "It seemed as if Chaplin could do literally anything, on any instrument in the orchestra. Langdon had one queerly toned, unique little reed. But out of it he could get incredible melodies." From his halting gait, forever on the verge of veering in the opposite direction, to his strange little fey wave that breaks off in mid-motion, Langdon brought a magical brand of innocence to the movie screen. When he arrives home in "SaturdayAfternoon," his wife glowers at him for being late. He turns and looks at the door. Suddenly, for Harry, the door is the most interesting door in the world. He pats it as if something is wrong. He pushes it, rubs it. What's wrong? Hmm, nothing. So he starts brushing himself off, anything to avoid the gaze of his wife.

The rest of the shorts on this volume are more typical Keystone material. "Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies" (1925) begins with Billy Bevin pushing his car home. Unbeknownst to him, however, his car keeps bumping into other cars. Before he knows what's happening, he has acquired a long line of cars in front of his, each coasting, wavering, and swerving. While the cars stay in line, he pushes them up a hill and over a cliff! "Wandering Willies" (1926) gives us Bill Bevin and Andy Clyde as buddies who long for the life of a policeman--and the free perks, such as free apples from produce stands. So they trick a policeman out of his uniform and head for the restaurants. The climax combines speeding cars with a human chain of Keystone Kops sliding down the street and around telephone poles.

This volume also includes some of the earliest Sennett comedies, including "A Muddy Romance" and "Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life" (both 1913) and "A Movie Star" (1916). The story behind "A Muddy Romance" is told often: when Sennett learned Echo Lake was being drained, he packed up the gag writers and actors and took off--"We made up the gags and the story as we went along"--in order to take advantage of a setting that he could never afford to create under usual circumstances. It's a classic tale of Keystone Studios resourcefulness. Both "A Muddy Romance" and "Barney Oldfield" feature Ford Sterling as the villain. Sterling's villain would growl and grimace, kicking his knees up to his chest as he pranced mischievously after the heroine. In "Barney Oldfield" he kidnaps poor Mabel Normand and ties her to the railroad tracks. Her boyfriend, played by Sennett himself, enlists the help of world famous auto racer Barney Oldfield so that he can ride to the rescue. "A Movie Star" features another of Keystone Studios' famous actors, Max Swain--a huge man, with mournful eyes, and a painted-on mustache that wrapped around his nose and halfway up his cheeks. He plays a blustery but uncertain actor who shows up at a movie theater for a screening of one of his own movies; Swain suffers the indignities of a too-enthusiastic audience.

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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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