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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Compilation > 100 Years Of Comedy

100 Years of Comedy (documentary)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Program: B



With the boom of home video, then of DVD, Comedy has been one of the most profitable genres of all.  However, there are many vital films in the genre that have never been issued or feature artists that have been forgotten.  100 Years of Comedy (1997) is a very good documentary that covers a wide-ranging amount of work that was even better known a generation ago.


Running nearly two hours, the nearly two-hour program (in two parts, likely for TV broadcast), starts with the dawn of motion pictures.  It was the 100th anniversary of motion pictures (roughly) when this show was complied.  The newest comedians and comedies are covered briefly in the end, but the main focus is on the greats of the past, including rarely heard from talents.  If you have never heard of John Bunny or Zazu Pitts, then you are in for a surprise with the even more obscure names that made a mark very early and are virtually forgotten.


The clip are generously offered, as well as rarely seen trailers, some obscure interview footage, and a chronology that breaks the program into male leads, the rarity of a Mae West, male comedy teams, rare female comedy teams, the Hal Roach legacy, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, and many others.  This also covers the phenomenon of “two-reelers” that show up on cable and DVD form back in the day from comics like Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol (reviewed under the Two Reeler name elsewhere on this site), as well as being the launching pad for the like of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton.  They were also the way the world met Our Gang aka The Little Rascals.


Because of the age of the taping of the program, and the older analog transfers and equipment, plus the age of the clips themselves, the mostly full screen presentation is average.  However, there are times the clips look decent.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is the same, on what are mostly monophonic (and even silent) materials.  There are no extras, but the program is so loaded, that does not seem to be as much of an issue here.


The remainder of the program gives us Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and stops before the gross-out comedies of today.  This is a rare opportunity to see clips and hear information you are not likely to catch again.  100 Years of Comedy may be a basic DVD, but it is also an unexpected gem worth going out of your way for.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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