In the wake of Robert Youngson's successful compilations of the fifties and sixties, imitators flooded the market with these low-cost, easy-to-do features. Some of them were disasters ("The Sound of Laughter", "The Crazy World of Laurel and Hardy"). Others, such as Irwin Pizor and Samuel M. Sherman's "Chaplin's Art of Comedy" came close to beating Youngson at his own game.
What makes this film near-extraordinary is the musical score. Youngson's musical backdrops, which seemed to emphasize muted trumpets too much of the time, could be a bit hokey, and hard to take (not to mention those echo-laden slide-whistles). On the other hand, Elias Breeskin's score, played by a string quartet and piano is magnificent. Particularly worthwhile is the theme played during the first part of "The Bank".
The picture's only drawback is the opening prologue which seems to serve no purpose other than to pad out the running time. Full of extraneous stock footage and drawn-out narration, this sequence is a bit off-putting for impatient viewers.
To sum up, "Chaplin's Art of Comedy" is a wonderful sampler of Chaplin's Essanay shorts for those who do not want to fully invest in his full Essanay period as yet. Once satisfied though, only the complete shorts will do, but save this disc anyway, if only for the wonderful score!
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