Collection of Keaton Commercials & Curiosities, for Completi
Donald Rogers | Seattle, WA United States | 09/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This 2-DVD set supplements Kino's mega-set The Art of Buster Keaton. Beyond the "features", which are available elsewhere, this set includes rare industrial films, promotional films, commercials, TV appearances and outtakes.
FEATURES ======= The Playhouse (1921) B&W / Silent * Audio commentary track Digitally remastered and restored version of one of Keaton's greatest shorts. New score from The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra.
Character Studies (Mid-1920s) B&W * Audio commentary track Recently discovered short with famed magician Carter DeHaven and featuring cameos by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Jackie Coogan, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Rudolph Valentino.
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) B&W / sound feature * Audio commentary track * Keaton's Italian villa still gallery Digitally remastered and restored feature. Definitive version.
PROMOTIONAL FILMS =============== Seein' Stars (1922) B&W / sound
The Voice of Hollywood #10 (1929) B&W / sound
Hollywood on Parade #A-6 (1933) B&W / sound
An Old Spanish Custom (1935) B&W / sound * Audio commentary track * Original press book
LIVE TELEVISION ============= The Butcher Boy / Can of Molasses Sketch * The Butcher Boy (1917) B&W / Silent clip w/ Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle * The Ed Wynn Show (1949) B&W / Sound w/ Ed Wynn * You Asked For It (1957) B&W / Sound w/ Eddie Gribbon * Unknown TV appearance (1950s) B&W / Sound w/ Billy Gilbert
"The Martha Raye Show" (1956) * The Concert B&W / Sound Buster Keaton and Martha Raye recreate a sketch originally used in the classic Charlie Chaplin feature Limelight.
Jeep - Lessons in Living (1960) * Only surviving complete Jeep commercial * Recently discovered fragments from previously undocumented Jeep commercials.
Pure Oil (1965)
INDUSTRIAL FILMS ============== The Devil To Pay (1960) B&W / sound short * Promotional booklet
The Homeowner (1961) - Color / sound short * Audio commentary track Recently discovered, previously undocumented Keaton industrial film.
The Triumph of Lester Snapwell (1963) Color short
BONUS FEATURES ============ 1 Parlor, 5 Bedrooms and 6 Baths - A new mini-documentary from filmmaker Jack Dragga.
Commentary tracks from comedy historians Andy Coryell, Paul Gierucki, Bruce Lawton, Steve Massa and Richard M. Roberts.
Still galleries featuring previously unseen Keaton images, original press books, trade advertisements and more.
New music scores from composer Ben Model.
20 page full color booklet with detailed descriptions of each film, archival photos and essays from authors / historians Ken Gordon, Steve Massa, David B. Pearson, Patricia Eliot Tobias and more! "
Barry Rivadue | Long Island, NY | 01/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An exceptionally produced, valuable and entertaining collection of undeservedly obscure and overlooked Keatonia, enhanced by an excellent booklet. The marvel is how Buster Keaton kept doing remarkable stunts as he approached 70. It makes all the CGI stunt work of today look pretty hollow! Oh yes, the material is also hilarious; anyone with a significant interest in Keaton should consider this an essential part of their comedy collection."
Keaton's later work; fascinating, sometimes bad, often hilar
Roger Leatherwood Brown | San Leandro, CA United States | 02/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection is certainly for Keaton fans and silent comedy completists. But if you're "in the tent," then you'll agree it's a very wide and satisfying collection of Keaton at his best during the second and third acts of his long career.
Although this 2-disc set suggests it is mostly concerned with the "industrial" films of BK's later career, the first disc is filled with material from his early years and stuff from the first years of sound and the MGM years in the 30s. The producers have found a restored and presumably more complete copy of Keaton's amazing 1921 short "Playhouse" which isn't much different than the Kino version (including framing) except it's a little cleaner, and for a segment in the middle amounting to about 10 seconds which have been in the wrong spot in the short all these years! ISK's version finally fixes that editing problem. The commentary, by 3 of the producers of this set, is knowing, good-natured, non-stop, and not academic at all, although clearly these guys have done their research and know their subject.
Also on disc one is a cleaned-up 16mm print of "Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath," one of the MGM talkies from 1931 that isn't as terrible as its reputation may suggest, and actually is a strong example of an early MGM-era talkie, and how Buster was managing to fold in his own gags and concerns. The best part of the film is extended footage actually shot at K's home in Hollywood, the fabled "Italian Villa" and a redo of a train gag from his earlier silent short "One Week." Again, the audio commentary is fun, very knowledgeable (these guys seem to know EVERY bit actor in this film), revealing and very good-natured. The key to enjoying this film is to understand that it isn't (and can't be) another brilliant silent-era Keaton classic, but is instead a different type of film from another style of filmmaking. P,B,&B is good enough fun.
As a bonus, there is a mini-documentary by historian Jack Dragga on Keaton's Italian Villa, called "1 Parlor, 5 Bedrooms, and 6 Baths" produced for this disc. It runs about 20 minutes and is a treat as it properly acknowledges how cool it is to see Keaton's Hollywood mansion in "P,B,&B" and get an insight into his lifestyle in the early 30s.
Also on disc one are a couple of early sound-era Shorts, "Voice of Hollywood" and a snippet from "Hollywood on Parade" (these kinds of things are mentioned in Eyman's "Speed of Sound" book about the talkies). Finally, we end with "An Old Spanish Custom," a 1935 feature (at barely 60 minutes) that Keaton did in England during his worst drunken years. Interestingly, the film although very low-budget, also has obvious gag contributions by Keaton, and has the familiar plot in which a conniving girl pretends to be in love with Buster to make another man jealous (we see it in "Parlor, Bedroom..." and in "Spite Marriage" as well). The cinematography is by Eugen Schufftan, who worked for Rene Clair, Marcel Carne, and G. Pabst as well!
The commentary as well is knowledgeable, fascinating, and affectionate for this ugly runt of a film. (Keaton would remake this film as a short at Columbia 4 years later, using some of the same gags.)
Disc 1 has 2 features, 2+ shorts, commentaries, extras, and we're not even to the "industrial films" yet!!
Disc two of ISK has commercials and the industrial films. The first selection is of some sketches he did on live tv over the years, 4 of them are based on his first appearance in Arbuckle's "The Butcher Boy" with a can of molasses. The version from 1957, with an actor that looks a lot like Billy Gilbert, has the best timing and is the funniest version, in my opinion. There's some other bits (a Martha Raye version of the scene from "Limelight" (she ain't no Chaplin)) and a pretty good and elaborate paper-hangers bit from 1956 (and it's all done live!). Then there is an extended collection of bits from commercials, ranging from Simon Pure Beer (these are great short black-out jokes - Keaton's in top form) to Country Club Malt Liquor (hmmmm), Alka Seltzer (very fun!), and a series of Jeep commercials called "Lessons in Living" from 1960. Most of this stuff is really great. You understand by watching this hour or so of stuff that Keaton really found a new niche in his "third act" of his life, being a funny often silent foil to sell products on t.v.. The comedy business is almost always pure Keaton-esque, and although he's quite older, he still takes great falls.
Finally, there are 3 "industrial films." "The Devil to Pay" is indeed like an Ed Wood film, as mentioned in the notes, with voice-over, theremin-type cheesy music, and terrible acting and compositions, EXCEPT for the weird and out-of-place framing segments in which Buster, as the devil from another planet, comes down to Earth and inadvertently "eliminates the middlemen" in the US. It's a gruelling, fascinating (and not very good) 20 minutes.
The next industrial is a recent find, "The Home Owner" from 1961 in which Buster demonstrates the joy of ownership for a company that was building houses in Phoenix, AZ. This 20-minute film is an absolute joy. Keaton was in charge of the writing (and probably the direction as well) and there are great timed bits of business, jokes, and the whole time this film really sells you on owning a house and living in this new (1961) community in Arizona. Great work that really harkens back to the silent days, and is a great example of what an industrial film should do.
The set rounds out with the complete "Triumph of Lester Snapwell," the Kodak promo film that was excerpted on Kino's "Keaton Plus."
If you're a fan of BK, and you've seen all the silents, and want to know more about the man, what he did after sound came in, and may even remember his face on t.v. in the 50s and 60s (am I aging myself?) this is an indispensible collection for you. Much of this stuff is really rare and not to be seen since original broadcasting over 40 years ago. The joy of the producers in having collected this package is also clear in the design and menus and commentaries. Turns out BK was not a washed-up failure after 1929. He just changed his career path.
"Keaton Plus" another collection of this type, was light on the later commercials and industrials, but is worth owning for the fascinating "Silent Echoes" tour of K's L.A., the restored "Hard Luck," and 2 of the better of the Educational Shorts. This collection is different, but just as worth owning."
Mostly otherwise unavailable, well done.
Mark Pollock | Davis, CA United States | 08/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a tough world for the Keaton fanatic. Once you have the giant Keaton Kino set, you really have all of Buster's best work. I mean, did he ever surpass his independent years?
That said, he often produced fascinating pieces, and found ways to shine in some really pitiful productions.
This set collects some real dreck, as well as some good stuff.
The good stuff -
The Playhouse - from a nice print that actually lets you see everything in the film. This is not a major improvement, but it's very nice to have.
The commercials - these are really a hodge-podge, but do show Buster at his 50's and 60's 2nd-chance heyday. The Alka Seltzer ones were particularly enjoyable, especially when Buster the mountie captures Buster the villian!!
Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath - Available many times before, but this time with a good commentary. More importantly, you don't have to give your money to some rip-off company for a low grade print.
Character Studies - an absolute gem of a brief piece of film.
The Home Owner - not the greatest film, but a really nice piece previously unseen, and with some quality Keaton gags. It's almost interesting enough to watch for fun.
It's also nice to have the promo and newsreel films in one place, and the tv appearances are good as well.
Then there are the ugly films -
Lester Snapwell - this film was already on the Kino box, and it's no better here. The soundtrack makes you want to break your furniture, and the gags are so slowly acted out that you feel it was made for the mentally challenged. But the music is really the worst. We didn't need this again. Not at all.
An Old Spanish Custom - some people like to see dead bodies, some people watch movies of disasters, and some people watch this film. It is awful. The commentary makes it almost bearable.
The Devil to Pay - somebody forgot to pay, and that's probably why this film is so awful. Unbelieveable.
I have no qualms with all these things being offered, and it's nice to have a lot on each disc, but buyer beware, some of this is really garbage, albeit garbage with Buster Keaton. You may not even get through parts of this set without needing a shower."
Unearthed Gems From the Great Stone Face
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 05/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Buster Keaton was a prolific artist until the very end. "Industrial Strength Keaton" chronicles the comic legend's remarkable achievement from the silent era to the television age. There are many unearthed gems in this two-disc set - plus a few obscurities that should have stayed in the vault. Among the highlights: a reconstruction of "The Playhouse" (1921); rare newsreel footage from the 1920s and '30s; a plethora of live TV apperances and commercials; and a delightful, never-before-seen industrial film titled "The Home Owner" (in which Buster displays his honorary Oscar). The few surviving fiascos - such as the no-budget "An Old Spanish Custom" (1935) and the amateurish "Devil to Pay" (1960) - are strictly for Keaton completists. A decidedly uneven collection, but fascinating nonetheless."