W. C. Fields Collected Shorts: Fatal Glass of Beer, The Golf Specialist, The Dentist
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From back cover, "These three shorts represents Fields' wittiest efforts. In 'Fatal Glass of Beer' Fields awaits the return of his ex-con son in a remote Yukon cabin. Presumably, that fatal glass of beer caused the son to get into all kinds of trouble, and thus jail time. 'The Dentist' is a cautionary spoof of that trade, and 'The Golf Specialist' is of course, a hilarious spoof on golfers. Fields' acerbic humor, famous one-liners (how did all these kids get in my room?) and films have stood the test of time and remain priceless."
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A 3 episodes collection of W.C. Fields Shorts. The quality is not that gteat, inasmuch as, the 3 films do not look like they have been remastered. The one that is not clear at all is a "Fatal Glass of Beer." But, the other two, are of good quality and they are hilarious. "The Dentist", in itself, is worth the purchase. And "The Golf Specialist" ranks right up there. If one is a collector of the comedies of the past, this DVD is worth having.
At first glance, hard to imagine such a character being widely popular in America of the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, but only if one falls into the periodic tendency of a large segment of American culture (perhaps all cultures!) to view the past through rose-colored glasses, finding a piety and propriety that never really existed. There has always been a anarchic and revolutionary spirit in American life that contradicts that propriety and more often than not found its best expression in humor. From the earliest pamphleteers, through newspaper columns and the comics page, on to Mark Twain, Will Rogers and the great pantheon of comics, commentators and comedians this lively antidote to stuffiness, self-importance and conventional wisdom has thrived.
In short, W.C. Fields while completely unique and unorthodox, was one of a company of Masters (that includes the Marx Brothers and Mae West at their best) adept at mocking the notions of propriety and what we would call "political correctness".
Others have provided the outlines of these short films, and I agree that two or three are minor, but to my mind there are 3 classics here that shouldn't be missed: The Fatal Glass of Beer, The Barber, and The Dentist.
What can you say about the completely nonsensical, nearly surreal first film? Well, as a verse from Fields dulcimer-accompanied song explains after his son takes the Fatal Glass:
"He met a Salvation Army girl, and wickedly he broke her tambourine,
All she said was 'Heaven Loves You' and placed a mark upon his brow,
With a kick she'd learned before she had been Saved!"
That and the curiously well aimed "Pop!" of snow in the face that accompanies the phrase "Tain't a fit night out for man nor beast!". You either find that funny or you don't.
And so on for The Barber, with the most excruciating shave imaginable and the begging dog waiting for more "scraps". And The Dentist with Fields daringly suggestive struggle to pull Elise Cavanna's tooth, the blonde bitten by the Dachsund ("You're lucky it wasn't a Newfoundland dog!") and the bearded gent with the elusive mouth ("And a very pretty thing too!") and fleeing birds.
There are several golf routines, one naturally in the Golf Specialist ("Never mind where I told you to stand! You stand where I tell you!") and in the Dentist, that are classic as well.
I have read the criticism of the DVD presentation, but even if extraneous music is present on The Dentist, these are the best transfers I've seen to date.
The great thing about humor is you can't fake it. It's either funny to you or it isn't. That is what makes recommending comedy so futile. What slays me may leave you cold. I find Fields irresistible, and his wonderfully anti-social persona not only hilarious but timeless. For that, this collection is treasured.
"Pool Sharks" is Fields' debut in 1915. Being a silent, it relies heavily on the old "two-rivals-fight-over-the-girl" story, a stock cliche back in those days. They use some primitive stop-action effects to pull off the trick pool shots, which, in its way, has charm. But even at such an early date, you can see Fields' rascally characterization already developing. "The Golf Specialist" is Fields' first talkie, a golf game (which never gets played) sandwiched between beginning & ending storylines as an excuse for doing the routine. It's been done before (almost verbatim in his feature "You're Telling Me"), but Fields' idiosyncrasies manage to make it just as funny. "The Dentist", his first for producer Mack Sennett, sets up another Fields routine. Forever notorious for its sight gag of a female patient who suggestively wraps her legs around Fields while he extracts a tooth must have raised many eyebrows back then, and even now. The real treat here is the classic "The Fatal Glass of Beer", an offbeat comedy short satirizing all those "snowed-in-the-Yukon" operas. Fields is really in top form here as he tosses out funny lines (particularly the running gag line of "It ain't a fit night out for man or beast", and gets a fistful of snow in his face). "The Pharmacist" has its moments too, as Fields plays a role he often did in features--that of the henpecked husband & harassed father. The short is climaxed with a cops/robbers shootout which nearly reduces Fields' quaint store to kindling. And finally, "The Barber Shop" scores with some wild sight gags as Fields contends with hot towels on the face, saunas, criminals, and children.
All of these shorts serve as, more or less, framework for Fields' routines. "The Dentist", in particular, suffers slightly with the insertion of an annoying musical score, punctuating the scenes; it simply doesn't need it! What these shorts do offer is pure Fields doing what he does best, without the intrusion of banal romantic subplots or musical productions found in feature films.
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These three comedy shorts illustrate the changing styles of humor over the last 80 years. How funny are they today?Read more