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The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (1917)

Paul E. Gierucki  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Frequently Bought Together

The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle + Slapstick Encyclopedia (Videobook) (Silent) + Silent Comedy Classics: 12 Classic Shorts (Fluttering Hearts / Mighty Like A Moose / The Caretaker's Daughter / Be Your Age / Forgotten Sweeties / Late to Lunch / The Locket / Judge Jones / Laffin Gas & More)
Price for all three: $39.58

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul E. Gierucki
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Limited Edition, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Mackinac Media
  • DVD Release Date: May 24, 2005
  • Run Time: 630 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00097DXG2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,362 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Alternate commentary tracks from noted comedy historians Paul E. Gierucki, Bruce Lawton, Steve Massa and Richard M. Roberts
  • 36 page full color booklet with rare photographs, restoration notes and essays from authors and film historians Steve Massa, David B. Pearson, Patricia Eliot Tobias, Brent Walker and Robert Young Jr.
  • Original Arbuckle artwork from animation guru Tom Bertino
  • "The Arbuckle Shuffle" a new music video from Robert Arkus

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Silent films and silent-film personnel always have an uphill fight when it comes to breaking through to modern-day audiences. Even in the best of circumstances, legend often gets in the way of direct experience. Roscoe Arbuckle presents perhaps the most extreme case. Few people now alive have seen him at work on screen. However, the most casual browser of film history knows that "Fatty" Arbuckle figured in one of the movies' early scandals: a 1921 wild party that resulted in the death of a bit player named Virginia Rappé, whom the famously oversized comedian is alleged to have raped (her very name reinforces the legend). Tried for murder, Arbuckle was acquitted; the jury even apologized to him for the ordeal he'd been subjected to by the overzealous prosecution and news media. Yet Arbuckle's reputation and career were ruined. His as-yet-unreleased films stayed that way, and prints of his earlier efforts fell into disuse; many were lost entirely. Arbuckle had been a director as well as a comedian, and over the next decade he occasionally worked in that capacity, under the name William Goodrich (his sardonic first suggestion for an alias was "Will B. Good"). He died, way too early, in 1934. And to this day, the casual assumption is that he was guilty.

Happily, neither the guilt nor innocence of Roscoe Arbuckle is our concern here. What matters is his legacy as star and filmmaker, something the 10-1/2 hours of this four-disc set makes a heroic effort at restoring. Included are 23 one- and two-reel starring or costarring vehicles from 1913 through 1919; a feature film, Leap Year (directed by James Cruze, 1921), released in Europe but not in America following the rape-murder trial; Character Studies, a recently rediscovered one-reel curio in which Arbuckle makes a cameo appearance (along with such fellow luminaries as Keaton, Valentino, and Fairbanks); four 1925-26 silent shorts directed by Goodrich; and a surreal 1932 sound short directed by Goodrich and featuring Arbuckle's nephew and frequent co-player, Al St. John.

Fatty first cast his considerable shadow in a slew of one-reelers for Mack Sennett's Keystone--lunatic fantasias that came popping off the assembly line as frequently as four days apart. Arbuckle's moon face--with an expression like a Buddha in sugar shock--and rolling bulk stand out unmissably, but in many respects he's just one element in a jittering field of Keystone zanies. What's remarkable is what happens when he's put up against a real partner. That was often Mabel Normand (and there are a lot of "Fatty and Mabel" titles in the set), a spirited but not always artful comedienne. But in The Rounders (1914) he finds himself doing a boozy ballet with newcomer Charlie Chaplin, and suddenly the fatboy exhibits amazing poise, timing, and precision. A choice moment: the two of them mutually deciding to go nighty-night on the floor of a swank restaurant while the surrounding socialites attempt to get on with their dining.

This is as good a place as any to mention that, whereas Fatty's 266 pounds eminently validated his soubriquet, there was nothing sloppy about Arbuckle's heft. A lot of that "fat" was solid muscle, and he was in graceful, comedic command of it. His instinct, as performer and as director, was to plant himself deceptively like a toad without a prayer of hopping, then fire one sort of missile or another at careless passers-by with uncanny accuracy. The same applied to his sudden lunges after targets of hedonistic opportunity, whether a comely female or a cream tart.

He was beautifully in control of his expression, his body language, his awesome possession of space. In a scene of inspired indolence in Fatty's Plucky Pup (1915), Fatty lolls abed smoking a cigarette. The cigarette falls and the mattress bursts into flame. After an eternity of nanoseconds, Fatty notices. Unhurriedly he rises, ambles out to his mom's kitchen, gets a teacup, fills it from the sink faucet, walks back to his room, confirms that the fire is still a fire, tosses the cup of water onto it, observes the continued burning, and shambles back to the kitchen to refill the cup. It is then that he notices a mirror over the sink and decides his hair needs combing. Then he walks back to the bedroom, pauses to sip some of the water, and effetely tosses the last few drops onto the fire, which, to his evident bemusement, persists in burning.

Speaking of that plucky pup, Arbuckle had a gravely frisky canine comrade named Luke whose own skills rivaled those of his master. Luke could run up a ladder, a very vertical ladder, and chase people over rooftops--as he does in Fatty's Faithful Fido and The Cook (a tour-de-force two-reeler not included in this collection). And in Fatty's Plucky Pup Luke even serves up a supremely fatuous look while submitting to a "pawdicure."

Another notable costar of Arbuckle's shorts was Buster Keaton, who appears here in Coney Island (1917). Yet arguably more important to Keaton's legacy were the instincts Arbuckle encouraged as a director. There is a moment in Mabel and Fatty's Married Life when Fatty starts running down an empty road, away from the camera, and his pal Al St. John runs the other way, toward the camera; it's an abstract frame, seem from a high angle, of hectic activity in a bleak and mysterious cosmos. No one is really getting anywhere. Similar visual intuitions of absurdity punctuate other Arbuckle films, and would, of course, bloom in Keaton's own early-'20s classics Cops, The Boat, and the great Sherlock Junior--a film on which William Goodrich may have lent a directorial hand.

He pioneered a very modern attitude toward the business of making films and watching them with self-awareness. In Coney Island Fatty, about to disrobe in a bathhouse to don a woman's bathing suit (don't ask), gestures to the cameraman to raise the frameline so that he can remove his pants with modesty. Clunked on the noggin in Love (a radiant restoration from two complementary nitrate prints), he merrily counts the special-effects stars swirling about his head. And in the Goodrich-directed The Movies, starring Lloyd Hamilton, he splits the screen so that rube Hollywood visitor Hamilton can find himself sitting next to the "real" Lloyd Hamilton in a restaurant.

Let's end by citing the two real gems of this four-disc set. He Did and He Didn't (1916) is an amazingly complex two-reeler featuring very artful and unsettling expressionistic lighting, terrifically subtle playing by Mabel Normand and Arbuckle, and a fully developed dramatic situation in which jealousy, the genuine possibility of adultery, and a robbery subplot worthy of Feuillade coalesce in a brilliantly ambiguous narrative. And in the 1932 Bridge Wives, Al St. John's playing and Goodrich's inventive tweaking of the comic possibilities of sound combine in a grand-Guignol account of a man driven insane by his wife's obsession with playing bridge. It's hilarious, and also macabre. Why was this remarkable talent destroyed? --Richard T. Jameson

Product Description

THE FORGOTTEN FILMS OF ROSCOE "FATTY" ARBUCKLE celebrates a career that was unfortunately overshadowed by hype. In the 32 classic silent and sound comedies here, Arbuckle either directs or stars alongside a cast of slapstick comedy legends including: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, Harold Lloyd, Ford Sterling, Douglas Fairbanks, Mabel Normand, and child actor Jackie Coogan. All of the films here (many of which are rare) have had their titles and scores restored, and quite a few include previously unavailable or lost footage. **NON STANDARD PRICING**

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Long Last A Proper Arbuckle Retrospective! May 24, 2005
This 4-DVD set has been a long time in coming and should go a long way in helping to restore Roscoe Arbuckle to his rightful place in the history of film comedy. One of its most rewarding aspects is the tracing of Arbuckle's development as a comic genius and having the opportunity to see the antics of some of the lesser known people he surrounded himself with. The collaborations with Mabel Normand and Al St John have been around for years but you almost never get to see Minta Durfee (Arbuckle's first wife and lifelong friend) or Edgar Kennedy (when he had hair) before his Hal Roach days. It's great to have the early Keystone comedies in decent prints (paper prints from the Library Of Congress) although the formula does wear thin after awhile.

Of special interest are discs 3 and 4 devoted to Arbuckle after Keystone and to his directing efforts after the 1921 scandal which wrongly resulted in his being banned from the screen as a performer. This material is very rare and features comics Lloyd Hamilton and Lupino Lane as well as a special treat from Douglas Fairbanks called CHARACTER STUDIES which features Carter DeHaven and a surprise postscandal appearance by Arbuckle. There is also an over the top sound film with Al St John (before he became a B Western sidekick) called BRIDGE WIVES which must be seen to be believed.

This brings me to the three minor issues I have with this otherwise sterling set. It would have nice to have one of the late Arbuckle sound shorts included so that we could hear Roscoe talk as well as see one of his last onscreen appearances. Why are there two versions of HE DID AND HE DIDN'T (only the tinting differs) when there could have been one more comedy added?
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten 'Fourth Genius' of Silent Comedy June 10, 2005
Verified Purchase
This is a superb 4-disc set that has been long overdue, but well worth the wait. Obviously a great deal of careful thought and effort has gone into this set, both in film restoration and overall presentation so that silent comedy experts and novices alike are sure to get a lot out of it. For a start, a 36-page booklet with excellent photos (some in color) contains essays and various information on Arbuckle, his work and films, as well as the manslaughter charge in 1921 - of which he was acquitted - that drastically changed the course of his career. Due to those unfortunate events many Arbuckle films have been sorely neglected, and most people might only be familiar with him through his 1917-1919 films with his famous protégé, Buster Keaton. The films presented here range from his start in the classic Keystone comedies in 1913 to a sound comedy (the only sound film in this set) from 1932 directed by Arbuckle, but most of them are Keystone comedies from 1915. They are the classic slapstick comedies most of us are familiar with, yet this selection is enhanced by other great comedy talents like the charming and delightful Mabel Normand who interacted with Arbuckle so well that this team was immensely popular with audiences; the often overlooked talents of lanky Al St John, who often plays Arbuckle's love rival and is an amusing contrast to Arbuckle's rotundness; and let's not forget Luke, the amazing super dog who adds spice to every scene in which he appears. Other highlights for me personally are, of course, Arbuckle's trademark flips and flicks with flapjacks and huge kitchen knives which he does expertly without even looking, and his very convincing transformation in women's apparel: really, if you didn't know it was Roscoe, you'd swear it was a funny, chubby girl! Read more ›
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the Love of Fatty September 22, 2005
You don't have to believe that Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is the equal in genius to Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton to appreciate this collection. The producers of this set believe he is, and they have put a great deal of love and dedication into this collection. Two aspects of Arbuckle's talents are showcased: as a silent comic actor with Keystone and later independently, and as a writer or director (later using the pseudonym "William Goodrich" after his notorious scandal rendered him unemployable after 1922).

To be convinced of Roscoe's talents as a comic actor, one needs first to check out "Fatty's Plucky Pup", the best Keystone entry in this collection. Often, Arbuckle's screen character is lazy, clumsy and empty-headed, prone to intentional or unintentional violence, until eventually driven by the love of a girl or some other incentive into redemptive action. The first reel of this movie is one of the best sequences in early silent comedy, as Fatty first burns his bed by falling asleep smoking, then transforms wash day into a disaster, as he first drops the laundry into the mud, then hangs it up, then tries to wash the clothes again with the hose, only resulting in getting himself, and his mother, soaked. The visual humor builds and cascades naturally, with all the actors well synchronized as in a dance or a vaudeville tumbling act. The Keystone-style chase at the end, showcasing the remarkable Luke the dog, is surprisingly refined, even suspenseful. This film matches easily, and perhaps exceeds, the creative output of Chaplin during the same period.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars but disks 2 and 3 useless. A simple look at the disks
As reviewed by another, high quality material and booklet, but disks 2 and 3 useless. A simple look at the disks, you can see the laminate falling off. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Gamera
1.0 out of 5 stars Laminate coming off disc
While the content is excellent and highly recommended (5 Star rating), the quality of disc material these programs are burned on is not (0 star rating). Read more
Published 6 days ago by L.A.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GREAT.....so be more
Published 17 days ago by Ray W. Lacoste
5.0 out of 5 stars Roscoe Arbuckle: His Works Still Stand
I had little interest in silent films until I happened upon a showing of "Love" starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle on Turner Classic Movies in March 2013. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Liles
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Films
The Films are brilliant and Arbuckle is an absolute physical comedy genius. I saw many gags invented by Arbuckle that were used by later comedians in later films. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Wesley Stine
5.0 out of 5 stars FORGOTTEN FUNNYMAN IS DONE JUSTICE
It's ironic that at one time Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's popularity as a silent screen comedian rivaled that of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, until the scandalous... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Casey62
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection of a largely underrated comic genius.
This collection was clearly a labor of love for the producers. The quality of the restoration and the rarity of many of the films makes this an ideal introduction to Roscoe... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Something different
Good quality silents...every now and then I'll watch a few late at night when I'm in the mood...still enjoyable in a simple kind of way.
Published 15 months ago by Chris Shrimpton
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must-have for silent movie fans
This four disc set is a great tribute to one of the greats of silent comedy, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. These four discs are PACKED with hilarious content. Read more
Published 16 months ago by JDC
5.0 out of 5 stars Arbuckle: One of the greatest comedians of all!!
This man should be immortalized in the top echelon of the 3 or 4 greatest comedians of all time, right up there with Keaton (his protege), Chaplin (part of the Keystone family) and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Missy H.
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