Years in the making, Milestone Films' Cut to the Chase: The Charley Chase Comedy Collection has been well worth the wait. Boasting sixteen short silent comedies across two discs - mostly two-reel gems with a couple of early one-reelers thrown in the mix - the collection highlights Chase's golden period of the mid-1920s. All of these shorts were originally released in 1924-26 when Chase was the undisputed star of the Hal Roach Studio, with six of these comedies new to DVD: The Caretaker's Daughter, Be Your Age, What Price Goofy?, Mama Behave, The Uneasy Three, and (the most elusive of all) Charley My Boy.
Not only are the comedies featured in Cut to the Chase uniformly strong, the films look great; while the prints used sometimes do show some wear, this is only expected for films that are nearly ninety years old. These comedies are lovingly presented courtesy of the film collections of the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, the Stanford Theatre Foundation, and the late Rusty Casselton. Musical scores for Milestone's set are provided by some of the biggest names in the business: The Mont Alto Orchestra, David Drazin, Donald Sosin, Dave Knutsen, and Ben Model, all of whom contribute appropriate, jaunty compositions - perfect support for these breezy comedies.
The films themselves show Charley Chase at his best and represent the cream of the crop among his surviving twenties work. The classic Mighty Like a Moose - justly celebrated on the DVD box for its induction into the National Film Registry in 2007 - is perhaps the most well-known comedy here, a top-shelf Chase classic. If it is one of his most easily available shorts, such a comprehensive collection - as Milestone's Cut to the Chase certainly aspires to be - would remain incomplete without it. Other two-reelers like Dog Shy, What Price Goofy? (both, like Moose, featuring virtuosic performances by the Hal Roach Studio's master canine thespian, Buddy the dog), The Caretaker's Daughter (co-starring the comedian's brother, James Parrott, and Roach stalwart Jimmie Finlayson), and the prototypical farce Innocent Husbands serve to exemplify Chase's dominance of the field of domestic comedy. Moreover, a quartet of shorts - Isn't Life Terrible?, Be Your Age, Long Fliv the King, and Bromo and Juliet - feature scene-stealing performances by Oliver Hardy, on the cusp of his teaming with Stan Laurel. Meanwhile, the set's pair of one-reelers, April Fool and The Fraidy Cat, are early efforts which effectively foreshadow better things to come. The collection is rounded out by a number of Chase entries - including Mum's the Word, Bad Boy, and particularly the underrated Mama Behave - that are deserving of classic status, as well as the rarities The Uneasy Three and Charley My Boy which are, in themselves, worth the price of admission.
With nary a clunker in the bunch, Milestone's two-disc set is not only an excellent introduction to Charley Chase's work, but a definitive collection which strikingly demonstrates the comedian's great run of comic invention during his silent heyday. The set is highly recommended - and required viewing for aficionados of early film comedy.
DVD cover art courtesy of Milestone Films.