Slapstick 2018 – Top Five

Slapstick Festival returns to Bristol for its 14th incarnation from Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th January 2018. As always Slapstick brings a whole host of special screenings celebrating every aspect of visual comedy. So many in fact that it is sometimes hard to know what to choose from the great range of events on offer.

So step in our fellow Co-Director/Co-Curator James Harrison to highlight the five events he is the most excited about:

Finally, don’t forget our first free Club Screening for 2018 takes place on the night before Slapstick 2018 on Wednesday 24th January. We will be celebrating the work of silent actor Hobart Bosworth at the Lansdown Pub, in Clifton. Doors open at 7:30pm for 8:00pm with a special introduction by Mark Fuller. But for now, James’ Slapstick highlights!


Silent Comedy Gala (Colston Hall, Friday 26th Jan, 7:30pm): Very much the heart of the Slapstick Festival, the Slapstick Gala has always had a fantastic atmosphere thanks in large part to the sheer size of the audience. Sitting with over 1,000 people all laughing at the same time is something truly special but this year’s superb line-up of films makes this night even more special.

This 2018 edition not only gives us the opportunity to see the classic short that is Charlie Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life (1918) on the big screen, as well as Buster Keaton’s highly accomplished and innovative masterpiece Sherlock Jr. (1924). Sherlock Jr. is one of Keaton’s most celebrated titles, showcasing Keaton’s physical abilities while also highlighting his supreme understanding of cinema as both entertainment and art.

Not only that but Sherlock Jr. will be accompanied by the world premiere of a new, semi-improvised score composed by Guenter A. Buchwald and performed by the renowned European Silent Screen Virtuosi and members of the Bristol Ensemble. A Dog’s Life features Chaplin’s own composition for the film and will be performed by the 15-piece Bristol Ensemble conducted by Guenter A. Buchwald.

Add to that Laurel & Hardy’s hilarious short Angora Love (1929) and you can easily expect a fantastic night of silent comedy entertainment!


Lost and Found (Watershed, Friday 26th Jan, 3:30pm): One of the true delights at Slapstick is not only seeing those classic silent comedies again, but also getting a chance to see some real rarities as well. Titles starring comedians you might never heard of. So enter collector Anthony Saffrey who will host this special event with historian David Robinson.

Lost and Rediscovered will highlight a number of unknown titles by one of cinema’s first comic stars, Andre Deed, along with The Lady Skater, a near prehistoric but hilarious British chase film, and Love and Lunch, an early film by William A. Seiter (later director of Skinner’s Dress Suit) starring an unrecorded Chaplin imitator, Ray Hughes.

Also works by Spanish/Italian/US comic star Marcel Perez and German genius Karl Valentin and finally, a screening of a recently found Max Linder film from the Cinematheque Francaise. A rare treat indeed!


Her Night of Romance (1924) (Watershed, Thursday 25th January, 11:00am): A new highlight for many of us over the last few years at Slapstick Festival has been the events hosted by stand-up comedian Lucy Porter. Unique and incredibly informative, Porter has been able to showcase the most well-known and even the rarest of artists from the silent era and bring her own passion and understanding of how many of these comic artists developed their work.

Hence the reason why this screening of Her Night of Romance is a perfect example of how Porter is able to highlight forgotten comic artists of the silent era. The Talmadge sisters were huge stars in the 1920s, but like so many, they retired at the end of the silent era and are almost forgotten today. But if you were lucky enough to see Her Sister From Paris (1925) back at Slapstick 2014, you know you are in for a real treat!

In the charming Her Night of Romance American Dorothy Adams (Constance Talmadge) is the sole heiress to her father’s scrub brush fortune but she has no intention of being romanced for her money after she arrives in London. An impoverished British Lord (Paul Menford) impersonates a doctor to woo the heiress. The Lord is in love but his business associate (Joe Diamond) is only interested in the money.

Another rare treat within the Slapstick line-up; also worth noting the screening of The Bagabond Queen (1929) starring British silent star Betty Balfour the following morning on Friday 26th January, 11:00am also introduced by Lucy Porter.


Buster’s Greatest Movie (and Biggest Flop) (Watershed, Thurs 25th Jan, 1:30pm): What more really needs to be said about Buster Keaton’s The General ? Quite a lot actually!

It may be celebrated as Keaton’s crowning achievement and one of the most accessible of any of the films from the silent era but as author and Keaton expert Peter Kramer will highlight in this event, there is much much more to be said. Using illustrative clips from the film, Kramer, who has been looking at the work of Keaton for over thirty years, explores how the silent star chose and realised his most ambitious project.

I highly recommend getting a copy of Kramer’s BFI Classics book on The General as well.


5) Skinner’s Dress Suit (1926) (Watershed, Thursday 25th Jan, 3:30pm): I always like throwing in a wild card when it comes to these kinds of lists; and my wild card for Slapstick Festival 2018 is the 1926 feature film Skinner’s Dress Suit directed by William A. Seiter. Seiter is best remembered (if he is remembered at all to be honest) as the director of Laurel and Hardy classic Sons of the Desert (1933) and stars the great Laura La Plante, best remembered for 1927 comic horror film The Cat and the Canary.

Apart from that, I know nothing about this film whatsoever! So good job Slapstick has film Historian and Academy Award winner Kevin Brownlow to introduce the film to us. If there was anyone in the world I would want to introduce me to a film I know nothing about, it would be Kevin Brownlow!


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