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Linder was one of those 'giants' of film comedy who periodically get overlooked then 're-discovered' by students of the genre. Born Gabriel Leuvielle in 1883, he began making films in his native France in 1906, then in Hollywood from 1917. He portrayed a man-about-town, dapper character always beset by problems caused by various misunderstandings and misdirections. His persona commanded attention all the time he was on screen and it is said, was a great influence on Charles Chaplin. The compilation offered here was put together originally in 1963."Seven Years Bad Luck", a feature film from 1920, sees Max in a variety of mix-ups caused by the breaking of mirrors. Regrettably this seems to be made up of several different prints, all of them well-worn and splice-ridden which detracts from the action. The three short subjects from the same period are of much better quality. A horrific experience on the battlefields of World War One left Linder desperately depressed and ended with his premature death by suicide in 1925. The film world was robbed of one its greatest comic artists, so it is good to have a DVD release as a reminder of his genius.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The First Comedy Superstar.8 Oct. 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
Thanks to the renewed interest in silent films brought about by video technology, a whole new generation is being introduced to the timeless comedy of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and others. But every time you laugh at their antics you should thank Max Linder the French comedian who did it all first.
Max began his film career in 1907 and by 1909 was writing, directing, and starring in his own films built around his character of the dapper dandy dressed in spats and silk top hat. By 1914 he was the highest paid entertainer in the world and had made over 350 films. Mack Sennett and Keystone were just underway and Chaplin had just arrived in America. Then World War I broke out. Max enlisted and was seriously wounded three times. By the time he had sufficiently recovered the world had changed. Chaplin was now the king of comedy having with full acknowledgement borrowed many of Max's gestures and routines. Max was flattered and came to the U.S. in 1917 to make a few short films before going back to France. He returned in 1921, bought a house in Hollywood, and made three feature films. These did not do well at the time and an increasingly depressed Max went back to France where he and his wife committed suicide in 1925. He was 42.
Out of his vast output, only a small fraction have survived. While this DVD is unlikely to bring about a Max Linder revival, it does allow us to see his most famous feature film, an abridged version of another, and some of his pre-war work in France when Max was at the peak of his popularity. SEVEN YEAR'S BAD LUCK (1921) contains the famous broken mirror routine of Max standing before someone else who mimics his actions. This gag was reused by the Marx Brothers in DUCK SOUP and by Lucille Ball and many others. The excerpt from BE MY WIFE (also 1921) has Max staging a fight with himself from behind a curtain. The condition of the prints used for this DVD are pretty good but not great and are probably the best available without the funding for a full scale restoration.
Nevertheless it's great to see Max back up on the screen once again. If you enjoy silent screen comedy then you owe it to yourself to check this disc out and watch the "Professor", as Chaplin called him, show us how it's done. Max Linder was the first comedy superstar and influenced all who came after him from Chaplin to the look of John Astin on THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Thanks to David Shepard and Film Preservation Associates for making these long unseen treasures available. The musical accompaniment by Robert Israel ranging from small orchestra to Fotoplayer (a sort of one man band) is first rate as usual.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Max gets the laughs7 May 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
A case can be made that Max Linder is as important a contributor to the development of silent screen comedy as Charlie Chaplin. Like Chaplin, Linder's creative output spanned a long period, almost 20 years from his beginnings in 1905. This collection is therefore very important to collectors of film comedy -- it provides a glimpse in DVD of what film comedy was like before Keystone and Chaplin. It contains 4 short films from 1912-1913 made in France for Pathe, and 2 features made in America around 1921, Seven Years Bad Luck and Be My Wife (the latter is only an excerpt, and it's not clear from the liner notes whether this means that only fragments of the film exist, or that someone edited the complete film down).
It''s clear even from this small sample that Linder always had a clear idea about what film comedy should be like -- there's a continuity in the flow of comic ideas between the early films and later films. Linder's movie character offers an interesting contrast with those of Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton. His character is handsome, wealthy, sophisticated and clever -- he is never the dysfunctional social underdog of Chaplin or Keaton, and he never needs to fight his own limitations in order to succeed as Lloyd's character does. He is also incurably flirtatious, and can be a bit of a rogue -- for this reason his character often resembles that of Douglas Fairbanks. His favorite props include shoes or other articles of clothing, dogs and cats (large and small), and attractive women. The only obstacles to his success are bad luck or bad timing, which he invariably overcomes to win the girl.
Linder could come up with remarkably funny comic ideas, often involving clever visual illusion. In Be My Wife, Linder fakes a break-in of his girl friend's house in order to convince her doubting aunt that he is a worthy suiter. He then emerges on the scene in order to subdue the "intruder", doing a funny off-screen pantomime with two pairs of shoes that suggest two men fighting. An absurd scene of him disguised as a scarecrow with a goofy smiley face also is remarkably funny, as he abuses both an annoying dog and his rival suitor before he is exposed and subdued by the broom-wielding aunt. Seven Years Bad Luck contains the famous mirror illusion, where two men dressed alike imitate the actions of a mirror reflection; it is invented here and copied later by many, including the Marx Brothers. Linder's version of this gag is far superior to the copies, and he develops and varies the situation with great timing and comic effect.
The early short films are less funny to modern viewers but interesting as examples of the polite social comedies that were typical of the pre-Keystone era. The best is Max Sets the Style, where Max, forced to wear an old pair of shoes to his wedding, is ostracized until he proves, again by deception, that it's the new style. The film closes with everyone wearing old shoes.
This collection is not perfect -- there is virtually no background information and even the dates of the early films are not provided -- but the quality of the prints is good and it's worth the investment.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A nice tribute to the very first movie star31 May 2006
Snorre Smari Mathiesen
- Published on Amazon.com
Once upon a time, still before Chaplin, there was a comedian made Max Linder, who made the whole world laugh. Though the larger part of the world may have forgotten him by now, a hundred years later, this excellent DVD proves that Linder is still very capable of entertaining an audience, if given the opportunity. Little of his work has been available on the video market in the past, so this compilation from Laughsmith Entertainment/Image is long overdue. Included here is one of the full-length films Linder made in Hollywood, SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK, apparently here seen in its entirety for the first time since its original release. The film is generally in very good condition considering its age, its source being a 35mm-print, and is accompanied with an excellent musical score by Robert Israel. It is in this film that Linder performs his version of the well-known "mirror routine," which is the scene most often associated with him today.
Also included here are four early short films which Linder made at Pathé's studio prior to enlisting in the first world war; TROUBLES OF A GRASSWIDOWER (1908), LOVE'S SURPRISES (1913), MAX TAKES A PICTURE (1913) and MAX SETS THE STYLE (1914). The first and last title are the most enjoyable today, whereas the two others do not feel all that representative of Linder's creative force, though they are interesting to see for their historical value. Finally, there is an excerpt of Linder's other feature BE MY WIFE to be found, as well as some location footage from SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK. Being one of Linder's most devoted fans, I wish more of his work was available, and hopefully this DVD is the first of several; he is more than worthy of sharing the top spot of silent comedians such as Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Arbuckle and Langdon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Vive Monsieur Linder!20 July 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
The feature and short films contained on this disc give a wonderful picture of the talents and comedy stylings of Max Linder, the world's first recognisable screen character and movie star. 'Seven Years Bad Luck' is an incredibly funny film, as is the excerpt from 'Be My Wife'; one wonders where the rest of 'Be My Wife' is, if this is the only footage left or if the complete print survives, held hostage in some archive or museum somewhere, unreleased to the general public. The shorts are quite old, from the Aughts and Teens, and therefore quite short even in comparison to the average comedy two-reelers one is familar with from early comedy, but for their short length they reveal a funny, inventive, hard-working comedian who knew what would make people laugh, found a formula, and stuck with it. The material on this disc is so wonderful that one wonders why more of this genius comic legend's surviving films haven't been released yet; of his around 500 films he ever made, only about a fifth still survive, and not all of those in the greatest condition, but even so, there's a lot of material for a lot more discs showcasing Max to be issued. From the little I've seen on this disc, I'm already a big fan of the fellow.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Laugh with Max Linder" is a fantastic DVD to honor the career of Max Linder!14 April 2011
Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
- Published on Amazon.com
Before many people knew of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, there was Max Linder.
The French actor who captivated audiences worldwide with his short films based on his character Max, the suave and dapper man known for wearing his hat and a suit and always charming the women around him.
In fact, no matter where he traveled around the world, he was mobbed by his female fans and was literally the first International movie star.
He directed wrote and directed his own films, was one of the most financially successful comedians during the silent era (making 1 million Francs back in 1912), the man responsible for introducing future star Maurice Chevalier and is known for inspiring Charlie Chaplin.
Unfortunately, like other silent film stars who were not able to transcend from the silent era to the sound era, Max Linder, who's career was hindered because of a German poison gas attack when he was called to serve during World War I.
Despite having opportunities to revive his career in America, because of his ill-health and his fading popularity, Linder was unable to jump start his career and unfortunately lived the remainder of his young life in severe depression.
In 1923, he and his wife made a suicide pact and both were successful in killing themselves in 1925.
For Charlie Chaplin, the death of Max Linder was a blow to him as Chaplin looked up to Linder as mentor. Chaplin, hearing about Linder's death, closed down his studio to honor him and in one of his movies, Chaplin wrote the following dedication, "For the unique Max, the great master - his disciple Charles Chaplin".
Unfortunately, Max Linder has become an unknown to many people who are familiar with Chaplin or Keaton, but before there was the tramp, there was Max.
And although many of his work is not available on DVD, in 2003, Image Entertainment, courtesy of film preservationist David Shepard released "Laugh with Max Linder" which contains his 1921 film, "Seven Years Bad Luck" complete and digitally mastered from an original 35 mm tinted print and a new small-orchestra score by Robert Israel using authentic period arrangements of silent film music.
The DVD would also contain four of Max's early short sketches made in France: "Troubles of a Grasswidower" (1912), "Love Surprises" (1909), "Max Takes a Picture" (1913) and Max Sets the Style" (1914). The DVD would also include an excerpt of "Be My Wife" (1921), Max's second American feature.
In "Seven Years Bad Luck", the film is written, directed, acted and produced by Max Linder.
Max Linder plays the suave character named Max, a wealthy man who gets drunk one night. Meanwhile, the following morning, while he is sleeping, his valet John (played by Ralph McCullough) and his maid Mary (played by Betty Peterson) are having fun with each other and in the process, accidentally break Max's mirror.
As John and Mary call the mirror maker to prepare another mirror and have it delivered to Max's home immediately, the two enlist the chef (played by Harry Mann) to imitate Max's actions on the mirror and make him think that he is looking at his own reflection.
First Max questions the way he looks in the mirror but John tells him that after a hard night of drinking, their facial features change. At first Max accepts this answer and as the chef is able to mimic nearly every move that Max is doing, when both bend over and turn around, Max bumps into the chef's rear end and realizes the prank.
But before he is able to swat his chef on the head with his shoe, he receives a call from his fiance Betty (played by Alta Allen) for him to come over. But while he is on the phone, the delivery people come by to replace the mirror just in time.
After Max is done with his phone call and gets back to the mirror, he throws his slipper at it expecting to hit the chef but instead, shatters the mirror into pieces.
Unfortunately, because Max is quite a superstitious man, he knows that breaking a mirror will give you seven years of bad luck.
Max is so bothered by this that he can't ride his car (thinking he will die in an accident), afraid of other transportation as well, but when he meets a fortune teller, she tells him that a dog will interfere with his life. Meanwhile, Max's best friend and rival is trying to get close to his fiance Betty but she turns him down.
So, when Max eventually gets to Betty's home, he notices that her little dog is there and while Betty is out, he tries to put the dog in a flower vase, so the dog doesn't disturb his time with Betty.
Unfortunately, when Betty comes back and the two discuss their future together, she notices her dog is missing and when Max tries to hide it, the dog is all wet and immediately, Betty thinks that Max tried to harm her dog and breaks off their engagement.
Feeling that he has seven years of bad luck, Max decides that he needs to leave for awhile and when he goes to travel by train to an unknown destination, he is robbed of his money. With no money, he does all he can to sneak on the train and by doing so, Max will undergo an exciting adventure as he tries to allude the authorities who are hot on his tail.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
For this DVD "Laugh with Max Linder", all are presented color-tinted or in black and white and are in standard definition (4:3), while the new music by Robert Israel is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo.
Considering the age of these films, the fact they are in-tact, there are no major nitrate degradation or warping, just scratches and speckles which are visible but for a silent film, that's pretty good that these films and shorts were not in terrible shape. They are watchable and frankly, I was quite pleased with the quality and very fortunate that you had a professional like David Shepard work and preserve these films.
As for audio, Robert Israel did a fantastic job with the music on this DVD!
"Laugh with Max Linder" comes with the following special features:
* Troubles of a Grasswidower - (9:50) A 1912 black and white short featuring Max and his wife who are having marital problems and learns quickly how difficult life is without his wife. * Love's Surprises - (6:12) A color-tinted short from 1909 featuring Max and a group of guys try to win the affection of a woman's heart. * Max Takes a Picture - (13:05) A black and white short from 1913. Max accidentally thinks his girlfriend that he is photographing in the water has drowned. * Max Sets the Style - (8:50) A black and white short from 1914. It's the day of Max's wedding but while he is getting dressed, he accidentally catches on fire. * Be My Wife - (13:10) A black and white excerpt from the 1921 short "Be My Wife" which Max Linder shot in America. * Boxing with Maurice Tourmeur - (2:39) "Candid" footage featuring Max Linder having fun with boxer Maurice Tourneur.
It is truly a shame that many people have forgotten about Max Linder and his accomplishments in the silent era.
But he was possibly the equivalent to a Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise of the early 1900's and early teens. The highest paid actor possibly in the world at that time (1912) and women would literally fall whenever they saw him in public, as he traveled to various countries around the globe and he was the most noticeable star and considering that cinema was just blossoming at the time, he was a man who did it all. He wrote, directed, produced his own films and he inspired many people including Chaplin.
It's unfortunate that his career was cut short because of the first World War and from that injury, had to battle ill-health afterward and never really could get back to the limelight even when he was given the opportunity to make things happen in Hollywood.
But despite how tragic his career and life ended, like many other silent film stars, they were unable to cope with their lifestyle change from being a huge star during the silent film era and then losing the fame and money during the talkies. For Max Linder, he was probably a man that could have transcended to the talkies if he had not battled these health problems but what is important now is that his name and his work be remembered.
But what you get with "Laugh with Max Linder" is his very accessible "Seven Years Bad Luck". Although late into his career, the film is absolutely fun to watch, hilarious and exciting. The mirror sequence was fantastic and just the overall story and pacing was very entertaining!
And of course, you get the four shorts and other bonus material that really makes "Laugh with Max Linder" a wonderful DVD release. The fact that these films look so good, yo have to give credit to David Shepard for preserving these films but also releasing them to the public. I'm hoping he has more of Linder's works and we will see another release in the near future.
While the shorts may not be as accessible and fun as "Seven Years Bad Luck", they are quite intriguing to watch considering they were created between 1909-1914 and how these shorts look very good despite their age.
For a man who has created so many short films in his career, it's sad to see that not many of them are available on video and if they are, there are many that are incomplete. Personally, "Laugh with Max Linder" may be the best DVD out there that showcases Max Linder's flair for physical comedy. Before there was the Tramp, there was the character of MAX and he had a good number of films based on this character. The problem is finding those other short films is not going to be easy.
Overall, for film historians to the silent film fan who want to know more about Max Linder and his work, this DVD is what you want and it is fantastic.