When he made Tilli's Punctured Romance in 1914, Charles Chaplin had yet to perfect the "little man" routine which made him the most popular 1920s screen star. His loveable rogue is well displayed opposite Marie Dressler's formidable country maid, whose unexpected windfall becomes the real object of his desire. Mabel Normand contributes an attractively period chic, and if, in the hands of Mack Sennett, the humour tends to fall back on music-hall slapstick, the historical significance of the film is undoubted.
Yet it's Buster Keaton's 1928 classic Steamboat Bill Jr which comes out on top here. Keaton is perfectly cast as the put upon student, whose bravery saves both his father and his steamboat-owning rival, and wins the hand of the latter's daughter. Solid support comes from Ernest Torrence and the winsome Marion Byron, with Charles Riesner getting maximum drama from the cyclone sequence, but it's Keaton's soulful expression and breathtaking stuntwork which are the most potent reminders of a talent only later to receive its due.
On the DVD: Comedy Greats is acceptably remastered, with 1.33:1 aspect ratio and 12 chapter headings per film, and decently packaged, this is worth acquiring--even though Keaton's film is the only one you're likely return to often. --Richard Whitehouse