With his quizzical expression and childlike demeanor, Harry Langdon was one of the slapstick cinema's brightest stars, a low-key alternative to his more fast-paced contemporaries. His hard-luck persona always had a melanch... more »oly air as he ambled through life, blissfully ignorant of the pitfalls of modernity. In 1927, enjoying the power that came with owning his own production company, Langdon steered his trademark character even further from the conventionalized slapstick of his Mack Sennett background.
His directorial debut, THREE'S A CROWD (1927), didn't just dabble in pathos, it plunged its hapless hero into a netherworld of loneliness worthy of Samuel Beckett (a self-avowed Langdon fan). Harry stars as a slum-dweller who invites a freezing woman (Gladys McConnell), pregnant with another man's child, into his home. Nursing mother and child back to health, he achieves his dream of having a family... or so he hopes.
Landon's second film as director, THE CHASER (1928) is a dark, slightly kinky comedy in which a carousing Harry is ordered by a judge to swap domestic duties (and clothing) with his wife. Deprived of his manliness, Harry contemplates suicide while coping with flirtatious salesmen and the scorn of a former comrade.
This DVD of THREE'S A CROWD and THE CHASER is authored from new HD masters derived from the 35mm negatives held by the Raymond Rohauer estate. Due to decomposition of the original film elements, portions of the THE CHASER are mastered from a 16mm print.« less
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 06/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...(with apologies to Reginald Perrin). There has been a lot of interest in Harry Langdon of late. Thanks to last year's HARRY LANGDON: LOST AND FOUND it was possible to finally see the early comedy shorts that brought Langdon to prominence. Now with this Kino International release (one of three new SLAPSTICK SYMPOSIUM offerings) you can see the two films that brought about his downfall.
Much has been written about THREE'S A CROWD over the years almost all of it negative. Seeing it today, there is much to admire but it's easy to see why audiences of 1927 hated it. Existential comedy in the silent era was doomed to failure and while you can admire Langdon for attempting it, you just have to wonder why. The audio commentary by film historian David Kalat makes a good case for the film even if he occasionally is a little overenthusiastic.
The second feature THE CHASER is a return to safer territory as it is basically a reworking of Harry's numerous henpecked husband shorts of the early 1920s. Part of the humor derives from seeing Harry as a ladykiller or "chaser" but it then veers into strange territory by having the partners switch roles as ordered by a judge and Harry's inability to handle the loss of his masculinity. This time around there are lots of gags but it wasn't enough to win his audience back. His final feature film HEART TROUBLE was barely released and is now considered lost.
If you're just starting to familiarize yourself with the work of Harry Langdon then this is definitely not the place to start. Try the LOST AND FOUND set first and then move on to THE STRONG MAN and LONG PANTS before you tackle these. The prints from the Raymond Rohauer collection are excellent for the most part although THREE'S A CROWD has one segment of serious nitrate decomposition. The organ scores by Lee Irwin provide an excellent accompaniment. Thanks to Kino for reviving these late Langdon efforts so that we now have a fairly complete picture of the comedian from start to finish in the silent era."
For Langdon completists
John Lazar | 01/04/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you're unfamiliar with Harry Langdon's work, this is not the place to start. If you've never cared for Langdon, neither THREE'S A CROWD or THE CHASER will alter your opinion of this quirky, acquired-taste performer. I admire Kino for releasing this limited-interest disc that won't appeal to a wide market. If the overly sentimental THREE'S A CROWD and the darkly humorous THE CHASER are personal statements (both were directed by Langdon), they're statements that will challenge and most likely alienate viewers. Both films reveal a popular silent-era comedian exploring different facets of his established character, deconstructing conventional narrative contexts in the process. The results are as fascinating as they may be (for most viewers) off-putting, and only the most dedicated film scholars and diehard Langdon fans may be willing to take the plunge.
Kino did a fine job of presenting this material, presenting HD masters derived from surviving 35mm negatives. Nitrate decomposition is quite evident during brief passages of THREE'S A CROWD, a reminder that it's fortunate for movie history that this film survived at all. (As noted, these passages are brief and the rest of the picture is in generally excellent shape.) Because of decomposition, portions of THE CHASER were mastered from 16mm source material.
Regardless of how unfunny THREE'S A CROWD may strike most people, even the harshest critics will have to admit that it's a beautifully-made motion picture. (The camerawork is stunning.) This disc is ideally suited for devoted Langdonphiles and serious (very serious) students of silent cinema, who will be able to look at these pictures in their proper context and will appreciate Kino's dedication to their consumer base. However, if you're simply looking for the standard type of silent-comedy fare like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd or the earlier Langdon efforts, you'll be better served elsewhere. "
Harry Langdon: the Andy Kaufman of silent era
Thomas M. Shepard | Boston, MA | 10/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having read some reviews and other materials on Langdon, I prepared myself to be disappointed by Three's a Crowd. And, true, the opening sequences, in which the camera seemed stuck on the sleepy Langdon, holding the shots way too long, seemed to portend an excruciatingly boring experience. But, boy, was I wrong! I absolutely love this film! Okay, maybe one can't quite call it a comedy, though there are many funny "moments" (as opposed to sequences or set pieces, though there are a couple of those as well), but there is an amazing sense of telling detail. While I agree that there are some plot points that go nowhere (the pigeon literally coming out of the blue), I disagree with the general view that Langdon didn't understand his own screen persona. Harry Langdon was a wonderfully subtle actor; there is not a false gesture or expression in the entire film. The photography too is breath-taking; the sets of that little dead-end community are indelibly designed. I immediately watched the film again, this time with the very enthusiastic commentary by David Kalat, and appreciated it even more. I guess I do see why it wasn't successful at the time of its release -- it does move very slowly, does not build to a rousing slapstick climax, and the ending will break your heart. But it's a one of a kind film that was made with great care and love. If Andy Kaufman had teamed up with Guy Maddin, you might have something like Three's a Crowd."
Never Enough Harry
Brigalow | Australia | 12/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Don't buy these if they are you first Harry Langdon purchase. These are for people that GET Harry already. I had read so much about Three's a Crowd (I think I read too much) I was expecting this profane, sad masterpiece and I watched it and I didnt get that feeling from it. I had heard that The Chaser was the "more Harry" of the movies and was a more appreciated movie by the audience of the day. So I watched it and you know it's not a great favourite of mine.
So I waited a little and rewatched both movies again and I came away from Threes a Crowd knowing that it is a mastepiece! This is The Little Elf at his best, the innocence and trust, the child, the man all mixed in together. The "nightmare" scene is so amazing.I cannot tell you how much I really love this movie, it goes beyond comedy!
This man was a genius and I really wished that he could have gone on further with his ideas. This is when the film industry gets in the way of making great films. I know it's all about $ but dont you wish that Harry had the money and resources of a Chaplin or Lloyd so that he could have made his movies like he wanted to0! Ah but I wish that so much for Keaton too!
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Robert Mccrary | Clemson, SC,USA | 07/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I share with the other reviewers their appreciation of Kino for releasing these films. As poorly as they have been reviewed over the years, it is nice to see a company place an item in the marketplace for the sake of completing the picture.
I have been a Langdon fan for about 30 years. I started out collecting the Blackhawk 8 mm prints, graduated to video where I could find it, bought both of the biographies (though Rheuban's book is barely that, I concede), and have been in heaven over the past several months with the glut of fine, fine Langdon material coming on the market.
Even with this history, I had only seen "Three's A Crowd" and "The Chaser" in the most miserable of VHS dupes. Not only was Langdon's face almost completely without feature, but the background was muddled to the point of being unrecognizable. I had thought both films relatively poor based on what I had seen.
I have changed my mind regarding "Three's A Crowd". I have always liked Langdon because he was different than the other comedians of the era, and so I have never made a direct comparison of his work to the others. In this film, he is quite excellent. David Kalat's commentary, while sometimes bordering on mile-a-minute revisionism, does get it right in that this film is Langdon's apotheosis of stillness and minimalism. I believe that if he had been allowed his initial cut, the film quite likely would have been even MORE extraordinary than it is today. The faults I can find with it are not the ones normally cited about poorly done pathos and matching (no one seems to notice this at the end of City Lights, by the way), but with continuity problems that might have been solved with the addition of the dream sequences at the beginning and some other scenes that we only know of from photographs. Pictorially, it is excellent, and the lack of gags was something I feel Langdon must have done intentionally, so I don't fault him for it. I have the impression that this was a film he had always wanted to make, and what we have is the compromised version of it. Not a masterpiece, but much better than I initially gave it credit for.
As far as "The Chaser".......well.......I love Langdon. I will put up with a good deal just to watch him go through his paces. There is some funny stuff here, but as a whole, the film just confuses me. The Sennett inspired setpiece with the beachballs and swooning women is a complete failure to me because I do not understand it as anything other than an opportunity for some gagging that Harry does not even DO particularly well. Not a total washout, because Langdon is a very interesting comedian to watch in any circumstance, and particularly in a film that was made in the silent era. I just wish he had taken a little more care in it's construction, because it looks very much thrown together. Then again, maybe he felt the frenetic pace and overt gagging was necessary, as has been cited in prior reviews.
I give it four stars. In my mind, a Langdon silent *starts* at three stars just because it exists, and then goes up from that point dependent on the quality. "Three's A Crowd" alone is sufficient to merit this grade, in my opinion."