One thing is certain this holiday season: an abundance of great gift options for the comedy aficionado. Those intrigued by the interactive tour of Los Angeles filming locations included in “Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection,” the must-have 10-DVD box set from Vivendi, will be delighted by “Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd” (available in paperback from Santa Monica Press).
You’ll never look at L.A. quite the same way after touring Lloyd’s locations with author John Bengston; hundreds of then-and-now photographs provide an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at where and how the comedian shot his films, from the Hill Street Tunnel to the rooftops of Broadway (where “Safety Last” and others were made) to the amusement parks of Santa Monica. As if that weren’t enough, Bengston takes us to Coney Island and the streets of Manhattan where the comic filmed “Speedy.”
Bengston also contributes a visual essay on locations to the Ultimate Edition of Buster Keaton’s “Seven Chances,” new on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Classics. This 1925 feature, one of the comedian’s best, stars him as an eligible young bachelor who learns he stands to collect a $7 million inheritance if he gets married by 7 p.m. that evening. The film has become celebrated for what has to be the greatest chase scene in the history of motion picture comedy; to call it “epic” doesn’t do it justice.
Mastered from 35mm materials preserved by the Library of Congress, this edition includes all kinds of goodies, including a Three Stooges comedy that recycles the premise—but it’s most noteworthy for the restoration of a rare Technicolor sequence. What goes into cutting-edge restoration these days? Eric Grayson discusses his work in a bonus feature; this Q&A from Mike Gebert’s blog, NitrateVille, offers a preview.
If comedy is your celluloid cup of tea, you may find a kindred spirit in a Florida man named Anthony Balducci, as I have. A few years ago he excavated new ground with a book on obscure but once famed silent film comic Lloyd Hamilton. Now he’s topped himself with an unprecedented tome called “The Funny Parts: A History of Film Comedy Routines and Gags” (available in paperback from McFarland & Company, publishers of the Hamilton bio), in which he tracks the development of popular comic shtick to its beginnings.
Balducci traces the genealogy of everything from banana peels and pie fights to racist jokes, car chases and high-powered vacuum cleaners. In a recent episode of “30 Rock,” the author finds three individual silent comedy routines; he points out that Keaton was a major inspiration for the Pixar film “WALL-E.” Where did Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and the Stooges get many of their ideas? You’ll find out here.
Lump of coal in your holiday stocking department: Word is the record industry is killing the CD format next year. There’s no silver lining to the evil Cloud technology, no matter how they try to gild it.
More from Jordan:
Gift guide: Disney animation revival, Fleischer’s Gulliver, Miyazaki on DVD http://exm.nr/f3ulSl
Gift guide: last words of wisdom from Mark Twain, George Carlin http://exm.nr/hg3Wr8
Chanukah gift guide: klezmer music and Israeli comedy http://exm.nr/ezDWBC
Klezmatics at Disney Concert Hall, Santa vs. Martians in OC http://shar.es/oBoFU
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