Mum's the Word (1926) Charley's mom remarries without telling her husband that she has a son. Charley visits his mother and new father pretending to be a valet, all the while pursuing the maid. A risque comedy ends up as a typical Chase farce. Co-starring Martha Sleeper at her most engaging. Not to be confused with another Chase comedy from 1926, "Mama Behave".
Long Fliv the King (1926) A Princess (Martha Sleeper) must marry someone within 24 hours in order to become the Queen. In walks Charley. With Max Davidson and Oliver Hardy, both turning in delightful performances.
April Fool (1924) It's April Fool's Day, and everybody is playing practical jokes on Jimmy Jump (Charley Chase), cub reporter for a metropolitan newspaper. One of Chase's initial Jimmy Jump one-reelers, complete with his early, longer mustache!
Mighty Like a Moose (1926) Classic Chase comedy in which buck-toothed Mr. Moose (Chase) and big-nosed Mrs. Moose (Vivien Oakland) both undergo facial reconstruction without telling their partner. Both subsequently meet up not knowing the other person is their spouse and engage in what they believe is an extramarital affair. Perfectly absurd premise is executed beautifully, with hilarious results.
Crazy Like a Fox (1926) Charley pretends to be a lunatic in order to get out of an arranged marriage. Unfortunately, he doesn't know that the marriage was set to be with the girl he is currently infatuated with. A fan favorite, co-starring Martha Sleeper and featuring a small role by Oliver Hardy, before his official team-up with Stan Laurel.
All Wet (1924) Charley gets in a spot of trouble with his car. Featuring a famous routine later reworked into his sound short "Fallen Arches", this is Chase's most popular one-reeler.
It's finally here. After months of anticipation, Charley Chase fans, classic comedy buffs, and the general public are finally treated to the first DVD exclusively devoted to Charley Chase organized by a major home video distributor. Kino International's "Charley Chase Collection" was indeed worth the wait. Part of Kino's "Slapstick Symposium" series--the other DVDs in the set (all also produced in collaboration with Lobster Films of Paris and sold separately) being a Harold Lloyd disc, Laurel & Hardy's 1939 feature film "The Flying Deuces", as well as a two-disc Stan Laurel solo retrospective--The Charley Chase Collection contains six short subjects culled from the comic's mid-1920's Leo McCarey-directed output.
The half-dozen comedies corralled by Lobster Films in the package for American release are among Chase's most popular and accessable comedies. Half of these shorts are available on other DVDs, although in different, and generally inferior, versions. Both Mum's the Word and Crazy Like a Fox were previously made available on two of Image Entertainment's "Lost Films of Laurel & Hardy" DVDs, and the same version of Mighty Like a Moose that is on the "Charley Chase Collection" was previously released by Kino on its "Slapstick Encyclopedia" set (albeit in tinted format). Even the rare April Fool was made available earlier this year on a silent comedy compilation released by ReelClassicDVD.
Fans may quibble about the choice of films considering the large number of Chase shorts not commercially available at the moment, but it is difficult to imagine an important Charley Chase release lacking two of his most popular comedies, Mighty Like a Moose and Crazy Like a Fox. Out of the six shorts on the disc, three are bonafide Chase classics (the two previously mentioned as well as his best one-reeler by a considerable degree, All Wet). The other three shorts are average but solid comedies, with Mum's the Word brightened considerably by a sparkling (for the most part) print. The inclusion of the one-reeler April Fool is an interesting choice, being an amusing yet routine one-reeler. Although the film was reputedly discovered only a few years ago, some fans have pointed out that the short was long a part of their collections. Nevertheless, the comedy is a rare one and it is perhaps because of its scarcity that it was included in this set.
The picture quality on these comedies range from superb (notably on Mum's the Word and especially Mighty Like a Moose), to good (Crazy Like a Fox and Long Fliv the King, with its perfunctory film titles), to good with occasionally fair segments (April Fool and All Wet, which is made up of prints from different sources with varying quality). Nevertheless, considering the age of these films, they all look good if not great and are certainly watchable. Taking into account Lobster's impressive restoration work, it is unfortunate that Kino did not include more films in this collection; six shorts including two one-reelers is a little skimpy, especially considering that Lobster's not-yet-released region 2 Chase DVD includes a second disc of comedies and that Kino's Harold Lloyd and Stan Laurel DVDs contain a good deal more films than the Chase compilation.
And now to briefly bring up a touchy subject in silent comedy restoration: film speed. The speed on these comedies is, unfortunately, slightly slower than it should be. While it is not slow enough to mar the comedy, the fact that a two-reeler like Crazy Like a Fox has a running time of 25 minutes instead of 21 or 22 minutes is indicative of the slightly slower speed in which these shorts are presented. Consequently, some of the printed titles appear on the screen for a little longer than they should. Casual fans probably would not notice, but some die-hards may find fault with this aspect of Kino's DVD set.
Like its film speed, the music set to a silent film can make or break a movie, so it is a pleasure to report that the scores for these comedies are quite terrific. All films except for Mighty Like a Moose feature excellent piano scores by Neil Brand. Neither annoyingly repetitive nor overbearing, Brand's scores compliment the comedies very nicely and can even be rather evocative at times. The music for Mighty Like a Moose is the same Robert Israel score used in the version of the film found in the "Slapstick Encyclopedia" set. In comparison to the earlier DVD, the Israel score used in "The Charley Chase Collection" sounds sharper and crisper. The music is sometimes rousing and always entertaining, good music for a great comedy.
"The Charley Chase Collection" is handsomely packaged and contains informative notes and film synopses by Stan Taffel, whose observations on a number of Chase comedies were previously published on this website (see The Movie Night archive). However, given Chase's obscure status, one wishes for even more information on the comedian and the individual films featured in this compilation.
The menus on the disc are simple and easy to navigate. The DVD can be played all the way through but also offers an option to play specific shorts. Additionally, scene selection is available for each comedy. Although there is not a pictorial representation of each scene to make selection easier, this is still an improvement upon Kino's previous "Slapstick Encyclopedia" DVDs, in which one could not access specific scenes from the films.
The only extra feature is a nice photo gallery, courtesy of collectors Cole Johnson and Paul Gierucki, which is made up of about a dozen Charley Chase stills and photos from the period, including some lobby cards from the films featured on the disc.
Kino International and Lobster Films should be commended for going through with a project focusing on a neglected figure in film comedy when most other major distributors are solely concerned with releasing the guaranteed money-making classic comedies. All in all, "The Charley Chase Collection" is a more-than-adequate introduction to Chase's mid-'20s work and a great addition to a classic film collection. The most significant criticism one can make is that there isn't more, more, more on the disc, or a second disc like for Kino's "Stan Laurel Collection". Let's congratulate Kino and Lobster for this disc and support their "Charley Chase Collection", but let's also hope for another Chase release or two or three sometime in the not-too-distant future.