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Our Gang, Vol. 1 (1922-1923) [DVD]
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Big Show
The Our Gang kids stage their own version of a county fair, with the help of two trained horses that have been innocently "borrowed" from a local trained-animal show. With their usual ingenuity, the youngsters devise and construct all manner of sideshow attractions, from a shooting gallery to a dog-powered merry-go-round. But the big-money act is an impromptu "movie show," with Gang members impersonating such silent-screen luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, William S. Hart, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. A delightful two-reel time capsule, The Big Show was originally released on February 25, 1923. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Fire Fighters
The Our Gang kids form a volunteer fire brigade, with little Jackie Condon appointed Chief because he happens to own a fireman's hat. After constructing a variety of ramshackle firefighting devices, the youngsters get the opportunity to prove their mettle by putting out what they think is a roaring blaze -- but is actually a smoking still owned by a pair of moonshiners. Among the Gang members appearing in this silent two-reeler is black youngster Allen "Farina" Hoskins, making his series debut. Originally released on October 8, 1922, Fire Fighters is still available, though many current prints lack a bizarre opening-reel sequence involving the "social life" of a well-heeled pet duck! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

A Pleasant Journey
Not unexpectedly, the benign title of this silent, two-reel Our Gang comedy is a misnomer. Escaping from the local cop on the beat, the Our Gang kids take refuge in a railway station, where they exchange clothes with a group of runaway boys scheduled to be returned to their home in San Francisco. Unaware that a "good licking" awaits the kids in Frisco, the gang boards the train, where they are immediately placed in the care of the persnickety, child-hating boyfriend (William Gillespie) of a temporarily incapacitated welfare worker. Inevitably the kids wreak all sorts of havoc on the train and its passengers, especially when they come across the wares of a traveling fireworks salesman. Originally released on March 18, 1923, A Pleasant Journey was partially remade as the 1932 Our Gang entry Choo-Choo! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

A Quiet Street
With the Our Gang kids involved, no street could ever possibly be quiet, despite the title of this silent two-reel comedy. In the early scenes, the gang "initiates" a new member, who happens to be the son of a policeman. Later on, the kids inadvertently capture an escaped convict named Red Mike (played by Jack Hill, later the perennial stunt double and stand-in for Hal Roach Studios comedian Charley Chase). The best gags have little to do with the plot, notably the hectic sequence in which a mule is pressed into service as a "carpet-beater." A Quiet Street was originally released by Pathe Exchange on December 31, 1922. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Young Sherlocks
This time around, the Our Gang kids are anxious to become detectives, forming a secret society called the J.J.J.'s (the "Jesse James Juniors"). Stumbling upon the society's headquarters, youngster "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison brags that he himself is a master detective, then weaves a fantastic story about rescuing a rich little girl from a desperate gang of kidnappers. The kids swallow Sammy's story hook, line, and sinker -- and even fall for his claim that he used the reward money to create a fabulous amusement park called Freetown. The two-reel Our Gang silent comedy Young Sherlocks was originally released on November 26, 1922. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Champeen
The first of several Our Gang comedies built around the manly art of self-defense, The Champeen finds Gang member "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison in desperate need of a dollar to pay for some apples he's swiped from the local grocer. Capitalizing on the feud between Mickey Daniels and Jackie Davis over the affections of little Mary Kornman, Sammy stages a championship bout in his backyard, advertising the combatants as "Knockout Mickey, the Irish Giant" and "Terribul Jackie, the Bone Crusher." The climactic fight is one of the best sequences in the entire Our Gang canon, filled to overflowing with clever gags and ingenious camera angles. As a bonus, chubby series stalwart Joe Cobb makes his first appearance, as an enthusiastic spectator. The silent, two-reel The Champeen was originally released on January 28, 1923. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

One Terrible Day
Though not the first Our Gang comedy to be filmed, the silent, two-reel One Terrible Day was the first to be released, on September 10, 1922. It all begins when wealthy Mrs. Van Renssaler decides to improve her social standing by sponsoring a day's vacation for a group of local kids. Unfortunately for the dignified dowager, she is saddled with the Our Gang troupe, who make a shambles of the outing. The film's best scenes take place in and around Mrs. Van Renssaler's fancy limousine -- or at least, it was fancy until the kids showed up. Elements of One Terrible Day would resurface in such later Our Gang efforts as Fair and Muddy, Free Eats, Washee Ironee, and Honkey Donkey. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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