Keystone Hotel (1935)

Laughing Gravy
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Laughing Gravy
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Joined: September 1st, 2005, 4:44 am

August 3rd, 2011, 9:45 pm #1

The Keystone Hotel is hosting a beauty pageant. The various guests, employees, and hanger-ons include many veteran Mack Sennett faces, including Hank Mann, Chester Conklin, Ford Sterling, and Ben Turpin. Chaos and slapstick ensue.

This is a wonderful 2-reeler produced by Warner Bros. in 1935. Cross-eyed Turpin is "Count Drewa Blanc", the judge ("Look straight at the camera, judge!" a reporter tells him, as if) who accidentally awards the prize to the cleaning lady. There's a series of blackout gags with Mayor Conklin, amorous Police Chief Sterling, and a fat lady on a reducing machine. There are also pie-tossing gangsters, so naturally somebody calls the cop. Sorry, the Kops - yes, the Keystone Kops return in all their glory, and in the highlight of the film, they all struggle to stay on the giant police wagon as it roars, shimmies, and circles through town. Hilarious, guffaw-out-loud stuff. One of my favorite short subjects, but alas, not yet on DVD anywhere. Hopefully, that will be rectified soon.

"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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panzer the great & terrible
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panzer the great & terrible
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Joined: September 4th, 2005, 4:52 am

August 4th, 2011, 12:18 am #2

Speaking of that, are there any Keystone Kop silents on DVD? Certainly not on any quality release, but are there any at all?
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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CliffClaven
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CliffClaven
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August 4th, 2011, 9:00 am #3

There's very little in the way of pure Keystone collections, outside of some lower-grade PD releases. Walter Kerr points out in "The Silent Clowns" that there weren't really any pure Kops comedies -- the Kops would be tossed into almost any film when they needed a climatic chase.

There are several sets dedicated to specific comics that include a lot of Keystone; these are probably the best for restoration, music, etc. Smaller outfits like Grapevine Video and Looser Than Loose also offer some early comedy as well as silent-era features.

Chaplin at Keystone box from Flicker Alley -- very pricey, and restricted to Chaplin's work there, but probably the best available. Includes the latest restored version of "Tillie's Punctured Romance."

The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle isn't quite in the same class, but it's still a superior set with a lot of Arbuckle's Keystones and later stuff, with commentaries, music, and a booklet. Very much a labor of love by serious Arbuckle fans, intent on restoring his reputation. (Other Fatty Arbuckle collections from Kino and Image focus on his post-Sennett shorts with Buster Keaton)
FLASH: Right now it's $13.22 on Amazon, an absurdly low price.

Lost and Found: The Harry Langdon Collection is a similar project, tossing in a very thorough (if slightly homemade looking) documentary that debunks many of the Langdon myths. It's missing the feature films, which were made after Langdon left Keystone. Those are available from Kino.

Becoming Charley Chase is yet another similar project, pretty close in quality to the Arbuckle and Langdon collections. It focuses on his early work as an actor and as a director, with some Keystone but not much. (Kino has put out a couple of sets of Charley Chase's Hal Roach comedies)

Slapstick Encyclopedia is a multi-disk Kino set that includes a volume of early Keystone and another of Sennett's 1920's stuff. Evidently out of print, but Amazon offers via "Instant Video."

American Slapstick & American Slapstick Vol. 2 from All Day Entertainment. Both volumes include a mix of interesting stuff that runs from the nickelodeons to the edge of the sound era.

Golden Age of Comedy, When Comedy Was King, 30 Years of Fun, & Days of Thrills and Laughter -- These Robert Youngson features are not historic documents but an attempt to "sell" 1950s audiences on then-forgotten silents. Heavily edited, with insistent narration and sound effects, they're now charming historic relics in their own right.
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CliffClaven
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CliffClaven
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August 4th, 2011, 9:14 am #4

A note on Keystones:

Be sure to view some individual pre-WWI shorts before splurging on DVDs. They're technically and aesthetically crude, made at a moment when pictures that moved were miraculous, and one guy kicking another guy was the height of film hilarity. They're almost neanderthal compared with what Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and the rest were doing in just a few short years.

If you're introducing somebody to silent comedy, start them on the still sure-fire masters. Then break out a Keystone to show what the great comics evolved out of.
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Laughing Gravy
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Laughing Gravy
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August 4th, 2011, 3:45 pm #5

Warners, in response to my question:

We can't say when, but we can tell you that new preservation elements were just struck from the original camera negative so that we could give KEYSTONE HOTEL a remastered presentation. It will be on one of several Vitaphone comedy collections (with all-NEW masters) that are in the works for the future.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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CliffClaven
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CliffClaven
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May 11th, 2018, 7:41 am #6

Laughing Gravy wrote:Warners, in response to my question:

We can't say when, but we can tell you that new preservation elements were just struck from the original camera negative so that we could give KEYSTONE HOTEL a remastered presentation. It will be on one of several Vitaphone comedy collections (with all-NEW masters) that are in the works for the future.
Any further word? It's been a long time since we've seen any new Vitaphone collections.
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Frank Hale
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Frank Hale
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May 19th, 2018, 9:31 pm #7

Four new 1928 Vitaphones appear on the recent "Lights of New York" disc. Collectively a real hoot.

The first one features Ray Mayer, who I knew I had seen before, but who left me scratching my head for several hours trying to identify.

Finally I realized he was the bar-room piano player that James Cagney insists accompany him on "I Don't Want To Play in Your Yard", in "The Oklahoma Kid". Great stuff.
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Laughing Gravy
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Laughing Gravy
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May 19th, 2018, 11:39 pm #8

I ordered that sucker as soon as I heard it had Vitaphone shorts on it. I'll probably even watch the feature, too.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Laughing Gravy
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Laughing Gravy
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June 10th, 2018, 11:11 pm #9

As it turns out, all four shorts were retreads from Vitaphone Varieties Vol. 3, also from Warner Archive - we'd watched all four not too long ago. I feel ripped off.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
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Frank Hale
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June 11th, 2018, 1:16 am #10

Sorry if I inadvertently misled you.

I do own Volume 3, and, although I haven’t watched it, I did log in the shorts on my spreadsheets. Regrettably, when I searched for, say, Ray Mayer, he didn't turn up because I had entered his film under a different title.

There is, of course, an entire, historically important feature included on the disc, which, while not great, might be of interest to a quotable expert.

And, you know, there is that old "caveat emptor" stuff.

But, hey!, that's just me, and we're friends, and that's what important, right? So, send my your new mailing address (you moved, IIRC?), and I'll be glad to send you a check for $21.

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