Slapstick Encyclopedia

If your idea of silent comedy is guys in old-time police hats throwing pies — you’re partly right. But what’s eye-opening about the first four volumes in Kino’s Slapstick Encyclopedia is the broad range of comic styles, from subtle (Sidney Drew’s hilariously world-weary husband in 1915’s ”Fox Trot Finesse,” from Vol. 1) to rowdy (Fatty Arbuckle and a startlingly emotive Buster Keaton in Vol. 4’s ”Oh, Doctor!”). Lovingly restored and featuring new music, these rarely seen shorts continually astonish, with their farcical intricacies (Charley Chase and Vivien Oakland manage to cheat on each other with each other in Vol. 3’s ”Mighty Like a Moose”) and revelations of a bygone pop culture (Vol. 1’s ”A Natural Born Gambler” stars black comic Bert Williams — in blackface). Much of the comedy transcends time, though; if you doubt it, watch any of these with a young child. All tapes: A-

Slapstick Encyclopedia
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