THE COOK AND OTHER TREASURES
Review by Michael Jacobson
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd
Directors: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Hal Roach
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Image Entertainment
Features: Do-It-Yourself Restoration
Length: 70 Minutes (total)
Release Date: February 11, 2003
80 percent of all films from the silent era are believed lost forever…that’s
a tragedy, and the utmost reason why film preservation is such a worthy cause.
But every once in awhile, sometimes in places you’d least expect, some
vault somewhere is opened up, and one of those lost titles becomes reclaimed for
all humanity. That’s fantastic
news when it happens…but when one of them is a classic early pairing of comedy
stars Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, it’s like finding the
Buster Keaton being my favorite filmmaker and screen star, I’ve owned and read
many books about him over the years, and every single one has lamented The
Cook as long vanished. How
thrilling it is for a fan in the 21st century, however, to learn that
it survived! In 1998, a partial
print was discovered in Norway, then in 2002, additional footage was uncovered
in the Netherlands!
DVD offering represents the best and most completely restored version of this
comedy short possible created from the two existing prints.
A bit of the ending is still lost, but most of the best gags are intact,
and showcase Arbuckle and Keaton’s unparalleled timing for physical comedy.
plot of the picture, as typical, is sketchy, and mostly a clothesline for two
master funnymen to hang their jokes upon. Fatty
plays the cook at a café, with Buster the hapless waiter.
The way the two pass plates and food back and forth seems physically
impossible, or highly improbable, yet the veteran team’s juggling act is as
precise as it is hysterical. Al St.
John, Arbuckle’s resident heavy, plays the tough guy who tries to make time
with the café cashier, whom Buster secretly loves.
He’s no match for Al, but that’s okay, Luke the bouncer is!
And Luke happens to be a dog.
whole picture climaxes at a carnival, where Arbuckle and company get all wet.
As mentioned, the ending is a little truncated, but the best parts of the
film are intact, and Arbuckle and Keaton’s intuitive genius for gags and
stunts shine through.
disc also includes another Arbuckle short thought lost, A Reckless Romeo.
An equally funny and possibly better crafted film, it follows the
misadventures of Fatty as a husband with a wandering eye, whose escapades at an
amusement park get him into more and more trouble.
He THINKS he can explain it all away to his wife, but ends up in a
newsreel for all to see! Very good
two gems are enough to make for a collector’s edition DVD, but Image throws
one more classic into the mix: the Hal Roach directed Harold Lloyd vehicle Number,
Please? Like the previous two
films, this one puts a comic star in an amusement park setting for some hijinks.
This one isn’t as memorable as some of Lloyd’s later works and
features, but it makes for a formidable companion piece nonetheless.
“Fatty” Arbuckle seems either little remembered today, or only remembered
for the wrong reason (the scandal he was eventually acquitted for that ruined
his career). At one point, he was
considered the second most popular film comedian in the world, next to Charlie
Chaplin. He was a gifted artist who
used his rotund form to full comic advantage, doing stunts and acrobats many men
half his size could have never done! His
partnership with Keaton helped bring Buster into the movie business, which in
turn gave the world one of its most indispensable stars.
like many great comic acts, the one-two punch of Arbuckle and Keaton didn’t
last forever. Yet one need look no
further than one of their shorts to appreciate their fast and furious
inventiveness and their genius for comedy and slapstick.
The arrival of the long lost picture The Cook should only add to
that reputation and continue to win them new modern fans.
hate having to grade silent films in this category, particularly when you have
two that were long thought lost that have almost miraculously
resurfaced…it’s plenty that they exist at all.
But I do have to point out, unfairly and unnecessarily, that the
print quality isn’t the best in the world…they’re probably about what
you’d expect for movies from the teens. The
color tinting on The Cook and A Restless Romeo are nice touches,
but the Lloyd short seems to have weathered the ravages of time the best, with a
much cleaner print and stronger contrast levels.
No real complaints, mind you…fans will be glad to have these ‘lost’
classics in their collection under any circumstances.
shorts are accompanied by a simple but appropriate piano score by Philip Carli,
which accentuates the viewing experience nicely enough…no real punch needed or
can look at the original prints of The Cook from the Netherlands and
Norway, and if you have DVD ROM access, you can use the original press kit to
see how well you can use the pieces to create a restored version of your own!