Mostly table scraps
Robert Morris | San Francisco | 10/07/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This collection is not, primarily, meant for those interested in Keaton's artistry. This is mostly meant for those interested in what Keaton did after his decline during the early sound era, and also to hear accolades from fellow film greats like Orson Wells and Lilian Gish. There are two rare Keaton sound shorts from the 1930s made for Educational Pictures. They are mere curiosities with only glimpses of the considerable talent Keaton possessed. There are also TV appearances, including TV commercials. There are also (beware: extremely short) excerpts from "lost" silent films.
There are only two things that make this collection worth examining. The first is an interactive exploration of Keaton's film locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles, based on the book "Silent Echoes". I live in San Francisco and it's fun to see images of Buster fleeing the cops through neighborhoods I drive or walk through often (San Fran, unlike LA, has not changed that much in appearance since the 1920s). I'm not sure how interesting this part of the collection is to folks not familiar with SF or LA, but I liked it.
The real gem in this collection, which seems as out of place as caviar with table scraps, is the early Keaton short "Hard Luck". Although not his best short, the star imbues the film with an energetic freshness, reflecting someone entirely confident in his creative ability, even at this early stage of his career. It aptly illustrates Keaton's remarkable ability to invent funny situations out of mundane activities like fishing or riding a horse. One feels in "Hard Luck" a link to modern masters of comic improvisation like Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams, except in Buster's case the invention is entirely visual. There is also the inherent darkness in the Keaton character, who is spending much of the film trying, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide. What's remarkable about the Keaton character in the early shorts is that he can pull off the allusion to despair and hopelessness while keeping the film light, fresh and energetic. Chaplin sometimes hits the audience over the head with pathos; never Keaton.
On the whole, however, I would not recommend this collection except for those who are seeking a complete Keaton library."
Not like a Greatest Hits, but more like some great B-Sides
Be Like Michael | In the little room next door. | 06/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD does not showcase Buster Keaton's famous and incredible body of work (his silent films), but highlights some relatively hard to find films/outtakes of his. It is a great collection for both Keaton fans and for newcomers to appreciate the greatest film comedian of any generation.
If you are not aware of Buster Keaton's history, in the late 1920's he signed with MGM only to lose the complete creative control he had experienced in his silent films. Consequently, his body of work beyond the silent era is largely uncreative and most is very difficult to watch a genius reduced to poor scripts and shallow characters. MGM didn't understand what to do with him and basically made him a boob to Jimmy Durante's loudmouth character. Poor Buster.
However, Buster did work consistently and managed to eek out a living and find work in some tolerable films. Some of these are gathered here.
The highlight of the DVD for me was the "Silent Echoes" chapter, in which the author of the Buster book "Silent Echoes" takes us on a then/now trip through the old Hollywood of Buster's filmmaking days, mapping the film's locations to present day (or to historical photographs in the cases where the building had been demolished). I was glued to the screen for days watching this over and over.
Despite not containing Buster's more famous film clips, this is a very enjoyable collection. If nothing else, I believe it's the only place you can see the short "The High Sign" in its entirety, which, alone, is worth the price."
Salvador Sainz | Reus, Spain | 11/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love Keaton. In this DVD I have one excellent perfomance in a dramatic character, THE AWAKENING, and something short: the excellent HARD LUCK restored, and two talkies, ALLEZ OOP and JAIL BAIT."