The Sprocket Vault continue their terrific mission to release rarely seen classics from the Hal Roach archives. The latest volume, out next week, covers the series of sound shorts made by the great Harry Langdon.
These are an offbeat and sometimes bizarre group of films, but I find them absolutely fascinating and often quite wonderful. Click here to read a detailed piece I wrote about them a few years ago, and below is my favourite of the shorts, THE BIG KICK. It’s an almost silent short with some wonderful bits of pantomime from Harry, and some truly strange gag ideas!
As usual, the disc is packed with real treats. For Langdon’s devotees, the real holy grail is the inclusion of his first two talkies, HOTTER THAN HOT and SKY BOY. These now only exist in silent versions without their soundtracks, and haven’t been seen in many, many years. There’s also a Spanish phonetic version of THE BIG KICK! Many find Langdon’s speaking voice strange in English.. imagine what it must be like in Spanish. There are also commentaries on the films by Richard Roberts. All in all, a wonderful gift for these troubled times.
Here’s the link to buy on Amazon, and the burb follows below:
After falling from Hollywood stardom at the end of the Silent Era, quirky silent film comedian Harry Langdon made not only his first talking films, but also his first screen comeback with a series of eight two-reelers for comedy producer Hal Roach. This pre-code series offers an interesting and entertaining look at what critic James Agee referred to as Langdon’s ”baby dope fiend” characterization, presented for the only time in sound as the undiluted comic creation he made famous in silent films. Langdon had developed a strange, stream-of-consciousness vocal patter in vaudeville, as showcased here. With another fifteen years to go in talkies after he made these shorts, Harry Langdon would never again deliver to films full-force his truly bizarre humor. Along for the ride is the beautiful comedienne Thelma Todd in some of her earliest film appearances at the Lot of Fun, as well as others from the Hal Roach Stock Company like Edgar Kennedy and Max Davidson.
This is Harry Langdon at his most surreal:
- 1929: Hotter Than Hot
- 1929: Sky Boy
- 1929: Skirt Shy
- 1930: The Head Guy
- 1930: The Fighting Parson
- 1930: The Big Kick
- 1930: The Shrimp
- 1930: The King
- ”La estación de gasolina” (Spanish language version of ”The Big Kick”)
- ”Hal Roach Presents Harry Langdon” (1929)
- ”Hal Roach Studio Auction”(1963)
- Commentary by Richard M. Roberts
- Photo Gallery
- Supplemental music composed and performed by Andrew Earle Simpson