The popular narrative regarding film comedy is that funny movies started out with coarse slapstick and slowly evolved into something a little more refined. Well, that’s all poppycock and my evidence is Max Linder, a sophisticated French comedian who has just received a spiffy new collection as part of Kino Classics’ ongoing Slapstick Symposium series.
DVD release on May 27, 2014.
For those of you who are unacquainted with Max, I will allow Charlie Chaplin to introduce him:
“The one and only Max, The Professor, From his Disciple, Charlie Chaplin.”
-Inscription on a photo presented to Linder.
Linder is witty, his films are so light that they practically float, he is both mad and charming. While other sets focus on Linder’s career in France, this disc is all about his work in America.
While this collection is just a single disc, it is packed with three complete Linder features and one of his shorts.
All of the features run about an hour in length, making them good choices as an opener for a silent movie night. These pictures are from Linder’s time in America, not his pre-war work in France.
The Three Must-Get-Theres is a send-up of The Three Musketeers. The punny title works better if you say it with a bad French accent. The film has been released on DVD before but its source print was extremely battered. This release makes use of a very nice tinted print, making this a huge upgrade in quality.
Without a doubt, the highlight for silent film collectors is the complete version of the feature film Be My Wife. A very funny excerpt was included in the Slapstick Encyclopedia box set and our appetites were thoroughly whetted. Well, here is the entire film, newly restored.
Seven Years Bad Luck is probably Linder’s most famous and most widely available feature. It contains the mirror gag that the Marx Brothers would make legendary in Duck Soup.
Max Wants a Divorce is the lone title on the disc that comes from Max’s 1916-1917 tenure at Essanay, where he was treated as a kind of Chaplin replacement. It is interesting in that it features the unfortunate Martha Mansfield, who was killed in a freak accident on the set of The Warrens of Virginia in 1923.
With all four films, the print quality ranges from good to excellent.
As usual, one of the main reasons to recommend a name brand silent film release is the quality of its music.
The Three Must-Get-Theres has a spunky and humorous score composed by Maud Nelissen.
Be My Wife has a sprightly piano score by Eric Le Guen.
Seven Years Bad Luck‘s score is arranged by the marvelous Robert Israel.
Max Wants a Divorce has an enthusiastic piano score by Donald Sosin.
All of the scores are enjoyable, appropriate and add considerably to the charm of these comedies.
Standard DVD case.
Keeps things simple. Play All or select the film of your choice. No problems here.
Yes, the complete version of Be My Wife and the high-quality of The Three Must-Get-Theres makes this must-buy for Linder fans.