More than just a silent comedian known for his pratfalls and clever mimicry, Buster Keaton was an unqualified genius of the American cinema. This DVD presents three of his early works, displaying his extraordinary talents ... more »as actor and filmmaker alike. Keaton stars in "The Saphead" (1920, 78 min.) as Bertie Van Alstyne, the spoiled son of a powerful Wall Street financier. Unable to escape the wealth and comfort that are foisted upon him, he pursues individuality in a series of comic misadventures in the speakeasies of New York, the altar of matrimony and even the floor of the American Stock Exchange. "The High Sign" (1921, 21 min.) finds Buster unwittingly involved in a radical secret society known as the Blinking Buzzards, stumbling from assassin to bodyguard in a romantic adventure that climaxes in a mind-boggling romp through a booby-trapped mansion. Dreams of domesticity are systematically satirized and ultimately demolished in "One Week" (1921, 19 min.), Keaton's bittersweet parable of one couple's unflagging determination to build a prefabricated honeymoon cottage.« less
"The three box set of Buster Keaton videos contains a number of his better works. I particularly liked One Week, Sherlock Jr. (wonderful), Our Hosptitality, and My Wife's Relations. Our Hospitality contains some daring river and waterfall scenes shot not too far from where we live in the Sierra mountains of California. Sherlock Jr. is one of his top notch films. The Three Ages is perhaps one of the weaker films in the package. One Week involves Buster in an attempt to build a new house from a kit. It's quite funny, and particularly relevant to anyone who has attempted to build a home or perform major home repairs."
DVD Set is a Mixed Blessing
June Miller | Brooklyn, NYC | 08/10/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Keaton's work. This is why it pains me to say that "The Saphead" is weak, and not just by Keaton's standards. As much as I love this man - skip this film. That said, I gave this DVD three stars because of the short features which follow it. "The High Sign," described by one reviewer as "a lark," is actually one of my favorites. Filled with enough gags for any short comedy, Keaton's acting is a pleasure and the plot is the sort of comedy/conspiracy narrative G. K. Chesterton might have made if silent films were his thing - I'm always reminded of "The Man Who Was Thursday." "One Week" is another wonderful short. With the famed, surreal hobby-kit house and a perfect ending, it is another must see Keaton short.So here's the problem: is it worth getting The Saphead just for the two shorts? If you're a Keaton fan and want to fill out the collection then go ahead, you won't regret it. If you're not a big fan, but like Keaton at his best, go for a DVD of more consistent quality - I recommend the Our Hospitality/Sherlock Jr. double feature."
Buster the Lamb
Cheated | California USA | 10/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection contains the first 3 films Buster made following the filmmaking apprenticeship he experienced under Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle from 1917-19. After seeing the dissatisfying results of "The High Sign", he was hired to do "The Saphead" while thinking up a better idea for his 2-reeler debut, which eventually came to be "One Week".THE SAPHEAD (1920): "The Saphead" is based on the play "The Henrietta", which had been a hit on Broadway and starred Douglas Fairbanks in the role of Bertie "the Lamb" Van Alstyne. Fairbanks had recommended Buster for the role in this filmed version, retitled "The Saphead".Buster's role doesn't start until about 10 minutes into the movie, where we see him wolfing down a big meal and being overly pampered by valets and servants. Bertie the Lamb is the son of a wealthy man who thinks his son is spoiled and soft. Because Bertie has read a book that states that the modern girl is more interested in a dangerous guy than a safe guy, he goes to a gambling parlor and then tries to get himself arrested. In this scene, fans of Buster's are given a rare treat: He opens his mouth and shows his teeth, which almost develops into a full smile! What a cutie!!"The Saphead" is actually a drama that's peppered with the subjects of infidelity, illegitimate children, death, suicide, and financial ruin. The only comedic moments in the film are supplied by Buster, who is allowed to practice his trademark pratfalls in a few scenes, which help illustrate the depth of his inept character, the Lamb. But because of his role, the film is worth watching simply because he's in it.THE HIGH SIGN (1920): "The High Sign", a 2-reeler that was shelved after its completion in January 1920, was actually released to the public after Buster had an unforeseen accident that derailed his filmmaking schedule, thus leaving him without a release to fulfill his contract obligations in April 1921. Buster intended "The High Sign" to be his 2-reel debut under his new contract, but was unsatisfied with the results, believing that his debut should have stronger material. "The High Sign" features him as a shooting gallery employee who is forced into the role of "button man" for a group of low-rent gangsters, who use a "high sign" for a password. Although "The High Sign" wasn't up to Buster's standards, it's as good as most of the 2-reelers he made in the future, and I think it deserved a better reason to be released than as an alternative because of the consequences caused by a broken foot.ONE WEEK (1920): "One Week" is the second 2-reeler Buster made, which did pass his quality control inspection. It's also, to this day, one of his most popular 2-reelers, so he was correct in releasing it first. "One Week" is about newlyweds who are gifted with a house-building kit. Not knowing that the jealous former suiter of his bride has sabotaged the construction directions, they build what turns out to be a cockeyed house (and throughout the film, they don't seem to notice that anything is wrong with it). The gags center around this dysfunctional building until the end, when we get to see one of the most famous scenes of Buster's career (involving a train)."
The Saphead/ One Week/ The HIgh Sign
Brother Frank | Mc Kinney, Tx. United States | 09/22/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE SAPHEAD is not a true "Buster" feature. This was Buster's first feature but he is playing a role that is not 100% the Buster character. He does not have his later degree of creative control in this movie. There are some very funny moments at the stock exchange. Lots of screen time without Buster. This is a good movie but not a great one.ONE WEEK is Buster's first short (that was released) and it a great one. Buster and his wife build a house and the results are less than perfect.THE HIGH SIGN is the first Buster short he produced. It is another great one. There are some very funny scenes in the shooting gallery. The High Sign also contains a rare moment wher Buster gives the high sign to the viewer."
"The High Sign" short is the 4 star gem herein; "The Week,"
""The High Sign" is the gem herein. It's a delightful romp wherein Keaton's character is introduced thusly: "Our hero came from Nowhere---he wasn't going Anywhere and got kicked off Somewhere." It's a 20 minute short that was Keaton's second solo effort in this category; one moreover which he co-wrote & co-directed (unlike "Saphead" in which he had no similar imput). Ultimately he gets hired to be a wealthy man's bodyguard right before being roped into joining a gang who gives him the task to kill that same wealthy individual as his initiation rite. A cut-a-way view of a house is the set for the mile-a-minute frenzied finale herein; as Keaton flies through windows, doors, and trap doors trying to resolve the above predicament into which he stumbled. It's Keaton at his best. Do make it a point to see this short. I wouldn't suggest you buy this disc, however, as the 78 minute feature is not really even a 'Keaton film' & is not something even Buster fans will want to watch multiple times. So, borrow this disc if you can & save your money for discs that include some of Keaton's greats instead: "The General," "Sherlock Jr.," and/or "The Cameraman." Cheers!"