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Max Linder and Harry Watson Jr. silents on DVD, Lon Chaney HUNCHBACK on Blu-ray

Harry Watson Jr., center, in JUST IMAGINATION
Harry Watson Jr., center, in JUST IMAGINATION
Ben Model

Mad Max is back, and I don’t mean that headline-making Australian schmuck. I refer to the debonair mustachioed Frenchman in the silk hat, the pioneer slapstick comedian idolized by Chaplin and newly showcased in “The Max Linder Collection” (available from Kino Lorber).

This collection offers stunning digital restorations (courtesy of Lobster Films) of three features Linder made in America—“Seven Years Bad Luck,” “Be My Wife” and “The Three Must-Get-Theres”—all from 1921-22, the latter co-starring Jobyna Ralston. The 1917 short “Max Wants a Divorce” is also included. Robert Israel, Eric Le Guen, Maude Nelissen and Donald Sosin provide the scores. Simply put: a must-have for lovers of silent film comedy.

If Linder is still somewhat remembered, Harry Watson Jr. has been wholly forgotten. Silent era comics don’t come any more obscure than this once-popular Ringling Bros. clown and Ziegfeld Follies headliner.
Silent film accompanist Ben Model hopes to change that with his DVD release of “The Mishaps of Musty Suffer,” a cartoony series of slapstick comedies made in the Bronx in 1916-17, chronicling the misadventures of Watson’s put-upon tramp character.

As crude as Linder was sophisticated, Watson could almost be the Frenchman’s ne’er-do-well country cousin. These offbeat and often hilarious silent shorts—unseen since their original release—will be a revelation to enthusiasts of early movie comedy. The DVD (available exclusively through features new digital transfers of eight extant shorts plus vintage newsreel promo footage of the comic, with new musical scores by Model.
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Paul Gierucki has been working day and night on the upcoming Flicker Alley release of “The Mack Sennett Collection.” Meanwhile, Flicker has issued a digital restoration of Lon Chaney’s 1923 masterpiece, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” on Blu-ray (mastered from a vintage 16mm print made from the original neg, the best surviving source material). It’s backed with a new score by Donald Hunsberger, recorded with a full orchestra conducted by Robert Israel.

Universal’s backlot was transformed into 15th century Paris for this massive production, which took six months to film and employed 2,000 extras for the climax. “Hunchback”—which was apparently Chaney’s idea, not studio chieftain Carl Laemmle’s as long thought—has never looked better. Bonus material includes rare footage of The Man of 1000 Faces out of Quasimodo makeup on the cathedral set.

A special Laurel and Hardy/Hal Roach Studios exhibit marking the pioneering comedy studio’s 100th anniversary will open at the Hollywood Museum (housed in the Historic Max Factor Building) on 4th of July weekend and run through Labor Day. It will run concurrent with a reprise of the museum’s annual Marilyn Monroe retrospective. (Visit

More from Jordan:

Celebrating King Vidor’s classic, ‘The Crowd,’ making silent films come alive

Theatre Out revives ‘Drowsy Chaperone,’ Bill Morrison doc recalls ‘Great Flood’

Kres Mersky’s ‘Flag Day’ debuts at Theatre West

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