11 August 2014 | boblipton
Sennett is the Keystone of Film History
Robert Youngson's first big compilation of silent comedy clips holds an important place in the history of film. Before this film, silent films were viewed as creaky antiques, suitable only for the occasional sneering jeer, like the "Goofy Movie" series and the rare fond memory of old-timers. It was only beginning in 1949, with Walter Kerr's article on the "Four Greats" of silent comedy, that a reappraisal began.
If, as some reviewers complain, there is no Lloyd, Keaton or Chaplin available here, well, their place was already being reestablished or, in Chaplin's case, had never been questioned. If the movie begins with a series of clips from the Sennett studios, it was surely Sennett's reputation which had sunk lowest, until he was recalled only as a purveyor of primitive pie fights in worn-out prints. Here, Youngson offers them in clean copies with admiring voice-overs and good musical accompaniment. If they're not the way the audience was intended to see them -- as complete films -- this surely shows them off to advantage as they had not been seen in thirty years. If nowadays the purist sneers at the film's perceived shortcomings, he should recognize that without Youngson's daring and surprisingly successful offering here, that purist would probably have never heard of those talents; given that almost all that survives of the Laurel & Hardy THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY exists only because Youngson put most of its second reel here....