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Fields on form
on 5 December 2005
Some of Fields' best comic sketches are on this DVD.
'The Pool Shark' is the only silent offering and is a very early (possibly his first?) appearance on film. Simple plot – Fields vies with other suitors for the hand of a female. Standard silent fare of the time and the disk would not have lost anything if this had been omitted.
The remaining five however are gems and all of them somewhat surreal by the standard of the time in which they were made. Fields did not spoon-feed his audience. His trademark bumbling and mumbling require close attention to pick up on what he says and does. Moreover, there is much more savage and sexy humour in these films than their age would suggest.
'The Pharmacist' has Fields in the title role, with gangly, nagging wife and two slightly unruly daughters. He trundles along, being nice to the awkward customers and irritated by his older daughter's romance and his younger daughter's appetite for live birds.
In 'The Barber Shop' Fields plays an incompetent barber in a small town. Some great verbal and sight gags in this, one or two of them probably old even then, but the sketch is none the worse for that.
'The Golf Specialist' has the feel of being originally part of his stage act. A quirky offering, with Fields as an hotel guest, who is being sought by debtors and lawmen, yet nonchalantly attempts to show his golf prowess to the house detective's wife. A good deal of comic business ensues with a bent club, a sticky pie and a large dead bird.
In the title role of 'The Dentist' Fields incompetently copes with his wilful daughter, a bad memory and a variety of bizarre patients, all of whom irritate him because he'd rather be playing golf. The scene in which he treats a female patient, whom he drags around the room while her legs are wrapped around his hips, would be unlikely to pass for family viewing even today.
The pearl in this collection however, is 'The Fatal Glass of Beer'. An extraordinary sketch, truly surreal and hilarious. Fifty years ahead of its time, Fields does a parody on the stock theatrical portrayal of settler hardship. His wife is a faithful drudge, his son is a good boy turned bad and has broken the hearts of his poor ol' ma and pa. The disk is worth buying for this sketch alone.
Sound quality is not good, but was improved considerably by adjusting the audio settings on the TV. Picture quality varies from fair to good, but these flaws are far outweighed by the excellent material.