Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New On DVD: Comedy Kings Roscoe And Shemp!

A 2-DVD set, The Vitaphone Comedy Collection Vol. 1 — Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle/Shemp Howard (1932-1934) has been released by Warner Archive.

To paraphrase the blurb from the new releases section of the Warner Archive website:

"Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle made his triumphant return to comedy in the six sparkling Vitaphone shorts he headlines in this collection. While Fatty’s return was tragically cut short by his untimely passing in June 1933, another talent, sporting the unforgettable mug of Shemp Howard, was on the rise. In this collection you’ll witness Shemp’s path from bit player to chief second banana in the span of two short years."

Among the premier comedian-gag writer-directors of silent pictures, as well as the mentor of Buster Keaton, Mr. Arbuckle managed to recapture the spirit and fun of his Keystone and Comique comedies quite well in these Vitaphone talkies.

Here's a clip from In The Dough. The bad guys are, indeed, more than vaguely familiar to classic movie and comedy fans!

A few players - gravel-voiced Lionel Stander, ultra-goofy Ben Blue, underrated Gus Shy and former Mack Sennett Studio stock company mainstay Harry Gribbon - turn up over and over in these Vitaphone "Big V" comedy shorts, all shot in Depression-era Brooklyn. Gribbon was teamed with Shemp in several Vitaphones. I'm disappointed that none of the Big V Comedies co-starring Shemp and Daphne Pollard are on this 2-DVD set, but assume they'll be on Volume 2.

Film history note: Art Trouble, one of the Vitaphones starring Shemp and Harry Gribbon on this set, is also noteworthy as Jimmy Stewart's film debut!

The lineup is as follows:

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

How've You Bean!
Hey, Pop!
Buzzin' Around!
Close Relations (w/Shemp)
In The Dough (w/Shemp)

Shemp Howard

Paul Revere, Jr. (w/ Gus Shy)
Salt Water Daffy (w/ Jack Haley)
How D'Ya Like That? (w/ George Givot)
I Scream (w/ Gus Shy)
The Wrong, Wrong, Trail
Here Comes Flossie (w/ Ben Blue)
Pugs And Kisses
Mushrooms (w/ Harry Gribbon)
Pure Feud (w/ Edgar Bergen)
Corn On The Cop (w/ Harry Gribbon)
Ramblin' Round Radio Row (w/ George Jessel and Bonnie Poe)
Very Close Veins (w/ Ben Blue)
Art Trouble (w/ Harry Gribbon)

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