The greatest box office success of all his independent comedies, "Battling Butler" (1926, 71 min.) is a rarely seen gem that mingles Buster Keaton's deadpan demeanor and awesome physical agility with a particularly dramati... more »c storyline. Keaton stars as Alfred Butler, a fragile young man whose father sends him to the country where he hopes masculinity will blossom. Ironically, he is mistaken for "Battling" Butler, a renowned prizefighter. Alfred continues the ruse until the charade is complicated by the untimely arrival of the true contender (Francis McDonald). Also featured on this DVD are two of Keaton's rarely seen short films. A Yukon metropolis is the snowbound setting of "The Frozen North" (1921, 21 min.), wherein Buster parodies movie legends William S. Hart and Erich von Stroheim. "The Haunted House" (1922, 17 min.) has been meticulously restored to its original glory: an astounding series of sight gags and illusions. Digitally mastered from archival prints, with original musical scores.« less
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Battling Butler" was the closest Buster Keaton ever came to making a dramatic film. Though regarded by contemporary critics as one of Buster's weaker efforts, this 1926 production broke new ground in its directorial style and depth - paving the way for "The General" and "Steamboat Bill, Jr." A traditional boxing comedy on the surface, "Battling Butler" has a subdued tone that erupts into violent rage with its climactic fight. The film equates pain with redemption and reveals the seriousness of Keaton's comic art. Like many Keaton silent features, "Battling Butler" moves beyond the slapstick realm to reveal a darker portrait of American individualism."
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 03/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Battling Butler is not as well respected as some of Keaton's more famous silent films. Leonard Maltin, for example, calls it `one of Buster's weaker silent features.' It is true that it does not reach the heights of comic ingenuity that can be found in The General, but it is far from weak. It may not be as clever as some of Keaton's films but it is just as funny. Battling Butler has a number of boxing scenes and it is natural to compare them with Chaplin's famous fight in City Lights. Whereas Chaplin is really a choreographed dancer disguised as a boxer, Keaton, though for the most part equally incompetent, shows that boxing has a dark and dangerous side. Keaton's fighting is finally savage and thus the comedy of his boxing scenes has a genuine tension which is lacking in the pure humour of City Lights. There is no danger of Charlie really getting hurt, but while watching Buster the viewer's laughter is mixed with fear for his well being. Keaton's athleticism makes his fighting realistic and gives rise to a genuinely shocking surprise at the end of the film. Both Keaton and Chaplin with their unique styles are wonderful comic boxers, but it is Keaton with his darker vision who most closely approaches the nature of boxing. Keaton's leading ladies can be rather unmemorable. This is not the case in Battling Butler, for Sally O'Neil was obviously a fine comic actress. Her beauty is of the twenties style, a lost fashion which many fans of silent films admire so much. Moreover her character is someone to care about, an integral part of the story, rather than someone who merely acts as a prop for Buster's gags. Another memorable character is played by Keaton regular Snitz Edwards. Just looking at Edwards makes me laugh. His face contorts into the most marvellous of expressions and it is clear why he was a favourite with Keaton for he acts as a sort of contrast to Buster's stone face. The quality of the print of Battling Butler is superb. It has almost no damage and the black and white images are sharp, clear and somehow more shining than is usually apparent with silent films. The prints of the short films which are included on this DVD are less good. The Haunted House is partially tinted with night scenes appearing blue. Unfortunately these blue scenes are a little too dark. Nevertheless this is a fine short film with some very funny moments. The Frozen North is described as surviving in only a fragmentary condition. However, it does not look as if a great deal of the film has been lost, as its running time of 17 minutes is not much less than other Keaton shorts and the continuity seems to be, for the most part, intact. The print quality though is quite poor with some of the images appearing bleached and indistinct. It is an enjoyable film with some good moments especially Keaton's impersonation of Stroheim's character from Foolish Wives. Overall this is a wonderful DVD with a superb feature and two good shorts. It acts as a fine introduction to Keaton for those who are unfamiliar with his work, while for those people building a Buster Keaton collection it is indispensable."
Buster Keaton is cool!
Charles/Patricia | United States of America | 01/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's face it, talkies ruined the movies. This volume proves it as much as any other. Battling Butler is brilliant (especially the waterfall scene at the end), The frozen north is hilarious, and The haunted house is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen (especially the bank scenes). Get this movie now!"
Cheated | California USA | 08/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"BATTLING BUTLER (1926): Buster plays Alfred Butler, a pamperedrich kid who is sent out into the wilderness by his father in order to make a man out of him. This does no good, because Alfred takes along his valet who waits on him hand and foot, and provides him with the luxuries he's used to at home. However, he falls in love with a girl out there, and in order to reach the approval of her family, poses as a famous prize fighter, also named Alfred Butler, to prove he's not the weakling he has shown himself to be. Much of this film takes place at the training grounds where the fighter Alfred Butler trains (and where Buster pretends to train, in front of the girl)."Battling Butler" is a farce comedy - a plot involving a case of mistaken identity that could easily be cleared up if any person involved would just explain what's going on. Buster made other farce comedies ("Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath", "The Passionate Plumber"). All were hits, but he didn't think farce comedy was best suited for his style, and never included those among his favorites. Ironically, "Battling Butler" made more money at the box office than any of his favorites.The most exciting scene in "Battling Butler" is where Buster beats the fighter Alfred Butler to a pulp. He's ferocious and frightening, and looks as if he trained hard before he shot the scene. Buster was obviously a jack of all trades, master of all. In addition to boxing, he was highly competent as: silent film comedian with perfect timing, sound film comedian with perfect timing, actor, director, writer, editor, stuntman, pratfaller, singer, dancer, acrobat, baseball player, and private in the US Army!..."
PolarisDiB | Southwest, USA | 02/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is kind of a typical Buster Keaton story, except in reverse: the girl comes along earlier in the movie, the men are impressed with him earlier on, everything works out for him earlier on, and then the rest of the movie is him trying to maintain his luck versus trying to get the girl against all the forces of bad luck. It also goes in a couple surprising directions, which are noteworthy.
I notice through the evolution of Keaton's movies that he did more and more acting and less and less physical comedy, with the exception of course of The Saphead, which was his first feature-length that was mostly drama-based, not slapstick-based. By now, 1926, Keaton knows what he's doing and knows where he's going, and thus this is a pretty clean and well-put together movie.
Still, the stuff he does in the training-ring scene is amazingly original and marvelous. When watching this movie, one expects something more along the lines of Chaplin's moment in City Lights, where he dodges around limberly and almost succeeds. Not the case, this was more real and brutal. Marvelous stuff, really, and surprising in its own right.
The Haunted House:
I have to give Buster (more) props: carrying on a single gag through many different encounters and many different characters and keeping the looks of confusion and chaos fresh the entire time is very hard to do, but he does it here, and admirably. Anyone who's seen this and Benny and Joon will recognize that little flick Keaton does with his arm was mimicked so incredibly perfectly by Depp that it's difficult to separate the two images as distinct.
But about this, that is, this short, it's typical Keaton fun-fest: machinery, badguys, booby traps, and hilarity, all intersperced with really clever titles. However, this one's plot didn't really flow as well as most of the stuff I've seen of his. I'm still rather unclear as to how Keaton's character ended up in the house in the first place. That said, the surreal moment with the skeletons building the living man made it all very worth it. Watch that shot, it's amazing.
The Frozen North:
The plot, as it were, is hard to connect because of the missing pieces, but in general it involves Keaton as a very different character than most of his films: this time, as a daringly evil but tragically incompetent ... somebody... that goes around shooting people and chasing women when he's not falling through snow and into frozen lakes. It's quite darker and drier than most of his stuff, as the concrete-faced Keaton goes along shooting and killing person after person... definitely not his usual stuff.
I liked the parodies and take-offs he did in this. It was quite funny, the little pokes at melodrama from Hart's work and so on. However, I'd still like to see a complete copy so that I could get an idea on how this movie flows.