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Slapstick Encyclopedia

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DVD 5-Disc Version
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Product Details

  • Actors: Charles Chaplin, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Edna Purviance, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy
  • Directors: Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, Al Christie, Alfred J. Goulding
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 23, 2002
  • Run Time: 1089 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005Y6YV
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,957 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Slapstick Encyclopedia" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Vol. 1: In the Beginning: Film Comedy Pioneers
  • Vol. 2: Keystone Tonight! Mack Sennett Comedies
  • Vol. 3: Sennett in the Twenties
  • Vol. 4: Funny Girls: Genders and Their Benders
  • Vol. 5: Keaton, Arbuckle and St. John
  • Vol. 6: Hal Roach's All-Star Comedians
  • Vol. 7: Hal Roach: The Lot of Fun
  • Vol. 8: Chaplin and the Music Hall Tradition
  • Vol. 9: The Race Is On
  • Vol. 10: Tons of Fun: The Anarchic Fringe

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The clowns of the American silent screen bring laughter to a new generation in this wonderful box set, featuring 53 short films from the era's funniest comic talents: Laurel and Hardy, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Will Rogers, Ben Turpin and more. Meticulously prepared for DVD with fresh new musical scores, "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is a unique collection of silent comedy gems.


A veritable gold mine of rarities and little-known treats, Slapstick Encyclopedia lives up to its title as a stupendous compendium of silent-era comedy. Spanning the entire spectrum of slapstick from 1909 to 1927, this definitive collection (curated by film historians David Shepard and Joe Adamson) dutifully credits Keystone Cops creator Mack Sennett as the founder of the slapstick phenomenon. But it reaches far beyond Sennett (who alienated most of his popular stars) to acknowledge nearly every major and minor slapstick star and style. The development of slapstick, which had its roots in vaudeville, is witnessed chronologically, mixing the manic pie-fight sensibility of Sennett's Keystone hits with the lesser-known, more sophisticated parlor-room comedy of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, while legendary black vaudevillian Bert Williams plies his popular trade in a Biograph short from 1916.

Early appearances by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Ben Turpin, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, and others demonstrate the gradual emergence of the popular personalities (like Chaplin's Little Tramp) that would dominate silent comedy at its peak, establishing timeless screen icons and forever altering Hollywood's way of doing business. But the real strength of this set is its wide scope, unearthing neglected talents ripe for rediscovery (like Charley Bowers and Larry Semon), and allowing the viewer to witness the evolution of gags from simple improvisation to the elaborately planned chase-oriented routines that emerged in the early 1920s. With print quality ranging from good to pristine, and original musical accompaniment by six of the world's leading silent-movie musicians, this 18-hour, 50-film laugh-athon is surely one of the finest DVD sets ever produced. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

I found more than 95% of them to be very entertaining.
Laurel and Hardy each appear twice seperately as well as in 23 minutes of clips from their team shorts.
bob turnley
PRESENTATION: Most prints are from the Blackhawk Films collection, and are 16mm.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Ingalls on May 28, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This must have been a labor of love! A collection of over 50 silent comedy shorts, nearly 16 hours of silent comedy! Lots of little jewels here - rare Harold Lloyd, Langdon, Hardy, silent film comediennes, etc. The music is new and appropriate. The booklet is first rate, as is the packaging and artwork. At a dollar a film, you are getting your money's worth especially since many of these are not available on DVD elsewhere. Many of these films I have never heard of and I have been watching silent films for twenty years.I found more than 95% of them to be very entertaining. Some of them are close to a hundred years old and provide a rare glimpse into a world that would have been lost if it was not for the camera. If you love silent films, this is heaven! Occasionally crude, very physical slapstick (which I never got but apparently early immigrant audiences loved) is here but plenty of fun gags, cute visual humor, early "sit com" type humor can also be found here. The title "Slapstick Encyclopedia" is misleading as many of these films are not slapstick, they are early comedy shorts. Some are so sophisticated that I realized that I had underestimated the makers and audience back then. My only beef is that it is hard to navigate. Once you start one of the shorts, you are stuck watching the whole thing - you can't go to a particular scene. If you want a specific scene, you have to watch the whole film. You can easily find a film (there are 8-12 films on each disc) but you can't go to anything speciifc in the film. A minor complaint for the best, most entertaining purchase I have made all year. I definitely got my money's worth - and then some - here. The prints range from excellent to average - nothing is unwatchable. Most are from the Blackhawk series of films. Highly recommended to all silent film lovers!!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on March 26, 2007
Format: DVD
Fifteen hours and 53 films worth of silent slapstick is a LOT of silent slapstick. Before you go any farther you should realize this isn't the greatest 15 hours worth of silent slapstick available. If you want to get the best - the funniest stuff - buy the boxed sets of Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton and Laurel & Hardy, and then see if you can find a compilation disk with some Harry Langdon and Fatty Arbuckle on it. Oh, the heavy hitters are here, but it's the inclusion of so much by the other guys that sets this set apart. If you like silent movies and are willing to sit through some strange stuff for no other reason than to see what folks were laughing at 100 years ago, this set is for you. I think it's a gold mine. A sprawling gold mine, but priceless to anyone interested in the history of filmed comedy. Each disk is divided into two sections. To give a sense of the breadth of this set, I'll briefly mention the highlights - or lowlights - of each section.

1-`Pioneers' - Section one of disk one features the pioneers of silent slapstick and contains, I believe, the earliest film in this collection, the 4-minute long `Mr. Flip' (1909), starring cross-eyed comic Ben Turpin. Mr. Griffith hadn't invented the close-up yet so we don't get a chance to see Turpin's crossed money makers. This film has Mr. Flip flirting with every woman he comes across and getting slapped with shaving cream, pies, etc., for his trouble. No plot, not even a real start or end, and really not very funny, but oddly engaging.

2- `Keystone Tonight' - Ninety odd minutes worth of early Mack Sennett/Keystone Studio one- and two-reelers. Highlight is the 16-minute `The Rounders' from 1914.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ingalls on July 8, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I previously reviewed this set but wanted to add a few comments. Included here is the incredible film "Now you tell one" by Charlie Bowers. Bowers looks like Keaton but out Keatons Keaton! After years of working in animation, Bowers took his surreal special effects into film. The result is jaw dropping! Wait until you see him 'grow" cats - and watch out for the little mouse with the revolver!
Monty Banks gives us one of the most thrilling chases ever seen in film in "chasing choo-choos". It looks like he did all of his stunts here and it is amazing that he lived to tell about it!
Definitely a great collection. Where else can you get silent films for about a dollar each? Do I like all of them? No. But with over 50 films, there is plenty here to enjoy and thrill to.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By woolrich2 on September 4, 2002
Format: DVD
There are some great and not-so-great items in this set, but all are of interest, if you like silent comedies. I recommend the 3 shorts each by Harry Langdon and Harold Lloyd (with one caveat to be discussed for "Haunted Spooks"), the rare version of Buster Keaton's "The Boat," some of the solo efforts by Stan Laurel (of later Laurel & Hardy fame), the "Hairbreadth Harry" short entitled "Danger Ahead" (based on a 1920's comic strip and one of the most ridiculously inspired things I've ever seen), the teaming of Charlie Chaplin and "Fatty" Arbuckle in "The Rounders" (where they each try to top one another on screen), and the delirious short by Charley Bowers (the only successful comedian/animator in film history--who incorporates his bizarre animation into his film shorts).
You can see so much here, as to the development of the careers of famous silent comedians. See Buster Keaton's crying and mugging hysterics while with "Fatty" Arbuckle develop into his more familiar stoic "Great Stone Face." See Stan Laurel go from frenetic nasty idiot on screen to playing the more sublime "Stanley" in the Laurel and Hardy shorts. See early Harold Lloyd shorts where his character has a bit more of an edge. Wonder why Ben Turpin had a career at all. All along marvel at the wonderful, appropriate musical accompaniment, sometimes on the odd "Fotoplayer."
The caveat? Well, nothing and I mean nothing has been censored and some very politically incorrect moments also make the cut, a few of which can make for some startling viewing for modern sensibilities. Then again, these films are 75 to 90 years old, and that should be borne in mind. In particular, I'm thinking of "The Detectress" and "Haunted Spooks" and parts of the Bert Williams short as rather blatant offenders.
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