If Judge Jesse Ataide could sing, he'd give you a knock-out rendition of "Get Happy." But he can't.
Showcasing the funniest and most outrageous clips from the SlapHappy Series!
I've never really been one for the physical, bawdy style usually associated with wild, slapstick humor. My tastes have tended to run a little more literate, more Oscar Wilde than Oliver Hardy. But there's no denying that SlapHappy: The Movie, a series of silent comedy clips that serves as a kind of "best of" compilation, is great fun, extremely funny, and several times demonstrates how physical comedy can sometimes, almost despite itself, stumble into the realm of visual poetry.
Most of the great early movie comedians are represented in SlapHappy: The Movie: Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, and the inimitable Buster Keaton, whose one-reeler "Cops" is, for my money, the diamond of the collection. Recognizable names like Mabel Normand, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Harry Langdon and the "Our Gang" troupe are also present, but instead of just serving up comedians and famous routines the audience would expect, SlapHappy delves deeper into the vaults and comes up with names and faces that non-connoisseurs might not immediately recognize (or I didn't anyway), such as Charley Chase, Larry Semon, Monty Banks, Lupino Lane, Bobby Vernon, Ben Turpin, and the actors of the "Ton of Fun" serial series starring what was billed as "the fattest men on the screen." And this only serves as a small sample of the over 35 clips that are assembled on this disc.
Even more helpful is the voiceover narration that accompanies each clip, providing not only a quick overview of the film the clip is taken from, but background on the stars and studio as well as the occasional anecdote and "behind the scenes" story. Even if several phrases like "most durable comic" and "most versatile comic" are grossly overused (it seems that every comedian featured in this collection qualifies as "Hollywood's most versatile comic"). The film accompaniment, whose variable quality has sunk a number of silent film releases, is upbeat, jazzy and most importantly, always matches and seems appropriate to what is being shown on the screen. These two elements—the narration and the music—elevate what could have been a still-funny but rather average release into a collection of note and well worth seeking out.
The picture image of these clips is exactly what one expects from silent films: they're grainy, they flicker, and white lines run haphazardly through the image. But silent films are actually one situation when picture damage actually seems to enhance the overall experience—it gives the more archaic, but somehow more primal, more pure. The audio quality of the vintage-sounding soundtrack and the added sound effects (door slamming, etc.), however, is more up to modern standards, and is excellent. There are no subtitles provided on this disc, however, as well as no extras.
Overall, the immediacy and abundant creativity still comes through in many of these films, and the fact that so much was accomplished without the aid of computers and other forms of technology is still breathtaking (and demonstrates how little we've actually improved). SlapHappy: The Movie serves as a great showcase (and possible introduction) to the great energy and art of slapstick comedy from the silent era.
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