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The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
The Forgotten Films of Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle
Actor: Paul E. Gierucki
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama
UR     2005     10hr 30min

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 slapsti...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Paul E. Gierucki
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Silent Films, Classic Comedies, Drama
Studio: Mackinac Media
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/24/2005
Original Release Date: 10/29/1917
Theatrical Release Date: 10/29/1917
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 10hr 30min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaDVD Credits: 4
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
Edition: Box set,Limited Edition
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

At Long Last A Proper Arbuckle Retrospective!
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 05/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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? It would also have been nice to have more commentary to give background on these films as they unfold. Out of 30 films only 7 have this feature.

But these are minor complaints with one of the best packaged silent sets in recent memory. The film presentations are fine, the musical accompaniment ideal, the commentary good, and the choice of material is great (Fatty's only surviving feature film LEAP YEAR is especially valuable to have and see). This release also comes with a comprehensive 35 page booklet on Arbuckle and the restoration work that needed to be done. Anyone who has any interest in silent film comedy should acquire this collection as soon as possible to be put up on the shelf with their Chaplin and Keaton sets. At long last Roscoe Arbuckle is finally getting his due and it's about time."
The Forgotten 'Fourth Genius' of Silent Comedy
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 06/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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!

Most of my favourites are on the fourth disc which features films of the 1920s, starting with a great 1-hour feature film "Leap Year", which was never released in the US. There is an entertaining segment featuring brief (ie a few seconds) appearances of other big stars: Keaton, Valentino, Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd and Jackie Coogan, and then five more comedies, each one quite different and all directed by Roscoe Arbuckle (some written by him as well) under the name of William Goodrich, and each one features other comedians. Particularly impressive is "My Stars" with Johnny Arthur, who does a great job of impersonating and making fun of stars like Harold Lloyd and Douglas Fairbanks - the latter dressed as Robin Hood, making flying leaps, bounds and gestures in an attempt to put Fairbanks to shame. I also got a kick out of the clever short sound comedy, "Bridge Wives", but with such variety on this disc and overall in the whole set, I'm sure there'll be something to satisfy everyone. Furthermore, careful attention to musical accompaniment means variety in performances and instruments (though most are piano scores) and there are also a few commentary tracks which add more insight into Arbuckle, his films and his many talented co-stars. Definitely a must for all silent comedy and slapstick fans!
For the Love of Fatty
Robert Morris | San Francisco | 09/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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. Other fascinating films include "He Did and He Didn't" with Mabel Normand, which is a surprisingly dark, serious (albeit with a surprise ending) study of jealousy and revenge; "Coney Island" with Buster Keaton, an early glimpse into their partnership; and a generous sampling of other Keystone partnerings with Mabel Normand. This team produced movies that are remarkably sweet and romantic without being sugary.

As a sheer creative force, however, I was not convinced that Arbuckle belongs with Chaplin, Lloyd or Keaton. The later films in volume 4, which showcase his technical skills as writer and director, are at best a mixed bag. The movies starring Al St. John and Lupino Lane, in particular, are tired, unfunny imitations of the style of Keaton, Lloyd and the Keystone studio.

Another reason for owning this set is to gain a new appreciation of the output of the Keystone studio itself. The restorations in this set are superb, with good resolution and an apparent reduction in the speed of the film, so one gets a chance to observe the comic detail. The result is a realization that Keystone films were not all punches, kicks, cop chases and exaggerated pantomime.

As a final side note, someone seriously should do a box set on Mabel Normand. Her grace, breeziness and natural style of acting make her entirely convincing to the modern viewer -- she is closer to modern comic actresses like Meg Ryan than to the "silent clowns" she appeared with. Her humor often arises from a contrast between her innocent, petite, feminine exterior and a flirtatious, even lascivious behavior, and she can take or give a punch, or a comic fall, as good as the guys. Focus on her, rather than Fatty, in "Fatty and Mabel at the San Diego Exposition", or in "He Did and He didn't" -- you might be dazzled."
Fabulous! Long Overdue!
Heidi Crabtree | Kennesaw, GA United States | 07/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I don't know what to say that hasn't been said here. I absolutely love these DVDs, the quality is fantastic, the music is great, no annoying sound effects here, and the booklet that comes with the set is gold. Arbuckle may well be the most tragic figure in Hollywood history. He has been repeatedly trashed and lied about through the decades, starting with contemporary newspapers, women's groups, rubbish on tabloid-TV shows, Anger's obscene books, and the recent "I, Fatty" whose author fictionalized the man's life and passed it off as truth. A drunken woman of very ill repute died after possibly having a back-alley abortion at one of Arbuckle's parties. Thanks to a lying friend of the victim and a crooked DA (Hollywood couldn't even write this), as well as a public eager for gossip on newly created movie stars and phony pictures in the papers, Arbuckle is still known by the lesser educated at the "fat guy who killed a woman with a bottle." Thank goodness Paul Gierucki and his Laughsmith company have come along with these films and a documentary. The man died over 70 years ago, still slandered.
These films looks so good you wouldn't think they were made as long ago as 1913. Some you can watch with commentary, and I prefer the latter. I wish they all had commentary! It feels like Laughsmith Ent is in the room watching with you, and educating you as well, pointing out many bits of delicious trivia. Arbuckle is hysterical, so much so that it's not as apparent that you're watching something so old. Some films of the early teens are barely watchable, they look so dated. Arbuckle's antics make them enjoyable, and I know kids would enjoy these films. Buster Keaton (Arbuckle's buddy by the way) is popular with children. Silent comic fans: Buy this!! If you have to get a used copy, get one with the booklet."