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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Long Awaited Comedies Arrive On DVD

The Sprocket Vault Releases 18 Charley Chase Talkies

Back in footie pajamas and recount of rose-hued collecting youth when I got first look at a talking Charley Chase. The short was Hasty Marriage, an 8mm print acquired from Blackhawk for $16.98 in 1971. This is still my favorite Chase, a choice driven by sentiment, but how resistible is any comedy shot on then-Culver City streets and revolved around street cars long lost to history? So has been sound-era Charley unfortunately, other than glimpses where TCM used him for a filler. We've had the silents, plenty as tendered by several DVD labels, but all that he did after was buried deep, excepting those for Columbia toward the end of Chase's life. Now comes rescue from want via The Sprocket Vault, that laughing place a recent source of When Comedy Was King, The Mysterious Airman, and Go Johnny Go!, each a winner in terms of quality and content. Charley Chase: At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume One 1930-31 is a two-disc collection of eighteen subjects, hand-picked to represent Chase at his talkie best. I've not seen much of what is here, or it's been so long that I've forgotten. In any case, there is sense of watching all for a first time, thanks to clarity an improvement on prints past, the whole of 18 featuring audio commentary by historian Richard M. Roberts and extras by way of poster and still galleries. There is even a Spanish-language version of The Pip From Pittsburg called La Senorita De Chicago which I didn't know existed, let alone ever saw a frame of.

Here's a distinct advantage of the 1930-31 group: They are for most part heavily scored with those delightful Hal Roach themes that are music heritage of all us who came up with Our Gang and Laurel-Hardy. I could watch, more so listen, to these films over and again even if casts stood stock still and said nothing. Of all things to cherish about Roach comedies, it is tune accompany I love best. Their music is overlay of joy to the lot. Charley Chase enhanced that by adding song to many of his shorts, and these are sprinkled through the discs' eighteen. Added value to the Chase Collection is fact that it is as much a Thelma Todd Collection, for she is in many of selections here. Thelma still works a magic after eighty years gone, a beauty for which we need make no allowance for time or fashions changed. Having her along is like getting double value from each of these comedies. We've seen a lot of gold veins tapped from humor's past, most thanks to effort of fans who were raised on vintage stuff. Those of us on receiving ends of these labors of love should support this stuff and share it. Continued release of the Chase group (and there are many more CC comedies) will be determined by response to this first DVD. Let's get behind the Sprocket Vault's worthy work and make a long-run series of Charley Chase with talk (and music).


Blogger Donald Benson said...

Putting in my order. Here's to more prime Charley and maybe even the Todd shorts that paired her with Zazu Pitts and Patsy Kelly.

This leaves a solid release of the silent Laurel and Hardys as one of my last grail items. A few years back the American rights finally changed hands after the quixotic tragedy of the previous holder. Has there been any word?

9:45 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

This is such a wonderful surprise for me. After reading this great news of yours- I could recall a mouth-watering hankering a long time ago for this sort of thing, that is, this part of the HAL ROACH- aka:'lot of fun'- MATERIAL to be recalled! LAUGHTER AWAITS!!! I presumed Charlie Chases' BEST EARLY SOUND SHORTS lost. I wonder if these Charlie Chase shorts were later sold and edited by various companies as the way the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang shorts were? Of the MUSIC SCORES, John; I could not know that anyone else CARED about the HR MUSIC! It's really GREAT to know that these crazy, wonderful little tunes, are, for sure, not just BOUNCING around with me ALONE but they are also remembered likewise by OTHERS with the same joy! I also , grew up with this music --and have an addictive LOVE for every one of those most memorable MUSIC TRACKS! Any release date/order info yet? THANKS! .

1:10 AM  
Blogger lmshah said...

Thanks for the nice words John, glad to know you liked the set.

BTW, here is the correct and only Amazon page where the set can be currently purchased:

Amazon has it back in stock after the first nice rush of sales and it can be ordered immediately.


6:49 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I wish people who create music for silent comedies would look at how the Hal Roach Studio did theirs. The music is perfect. They make no attempt to be "funny." They don't intrude on the action with effects for falls. They work AND WORK WONDERFULLY. Everyone else uses the musical equivalent of the Delsarte System., . They make the films look hammy.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Stinky has to buy something for seven cents to get free shipping on Amazon. Any suggestions?

10:35 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...


10:58 AM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Reg, Stinky would have to sell a lot of front yard lemonades to buy that much Charley Chase!

1:36 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Suggest any of the following to fill out Stinky's order:
-- Becoming Charley Chase (emphasis on the one-reelers, plus some Chase directorial samples)
-- Either of the Kino Slapstick Symposium sets (mainly two-reelers)
-- Cut to the Chase (likewise)
If you already have any silent Charley, suggest checking the description / reviews to minimize duplicated shorts.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Ahh, how I wish I could be more excited! After reading forever about the genius of Charley Chase, I finally got to see over a dozen of them over the years on TCM. And honestly, I never laughed once. I enjoyed his singing, and his personality, but I just didn't find him funny. I'm not sure what I'm missing. Still love Laurel & Hardy, though.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Brother Herbert said...

Thanks for the heads-up on this set, John. I'd certainly like to see more of the Roach sound shorts put out on disc. Perhaps we'll see more of the Pitts/Todd/Kelly series or even a complete Boy Friends or Taxi Boys set?

And you're certainly not alone in putting a spotlight on Leroy Shield's background music. I've been trying for years to get my hands on as many of the sound shorts as possible to put together clean versions of the tunes, much as the Beau Hunks did in their from-scratch reconstructions.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Lee R. said...

This new release sounds great. Now I'd also like to see a release of Thelma Todd shorts including her teammate Zazu Pitts. These also featured the great background music heard in Laurel & Hardy shorts. I have loved this music since I first watched L&H on TV as a kid back in the '60's. Believe it or not, L&H were shown on a weeknight basis on local TV channels. Boy, how I wish this type of exposure for the boys' films were still going on today. Young kids don't even know who L&H are. A real tragedy for them. I bought the Beau Hunks CDs several years back with all the great Leroy SHields L&H music, I love these CDs. Play 'em and you think you're living a L&H life too.

10:35 PM  

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