Review

Slapstick Figures

As we bemoan the fourth Ben Stiller film in seven months, consider an era when comic actors routinely cranked out a half-dozen pictures a year...and we liked it! The Slapstick Symposium series has three sets of silents from the not-so-roaring '20s: Most crucial is the Harold Lloyd Collection, since ol' four eyes has heretofore been virtually unrepresented on disc, what with his estate holding out for the right DVD deal. This one contains some primo public-domain stuff, including Lloyd's first feature, ''Grandma's Boy,'' which locked in his burned-milquetoast, wimp-to-winner persona. Less essential is the Charley Chase Collection, which makes the case for a star who may have faded just because his straight-man looks were an odd fit with his comic chops. A goofier mug powers the Stan Laurel Collection, featuring 16 ''solo'' shorts that'll be revelatory for fans who know him only as Hardy's sad-sack foil; here, he takes on such un-Stan-dard roles as a Russian count and a Dr. Jekyll wannabe. Quality varies, but accept the For Your Collection promise that any of these are funnier than Dodgeball.

Lloyd: A Chase, Laurel: B+

Originally posted Aug 13, 2004 Published in issue #778 Aug 13, 2004 Order article reprints