Flavored with Americana and loaded with cinematic inventiveness, "Steamboat Bill, Jr." (1928, 69 min.) was Buster Keaton's final independent production, a comic masterpiece. Set on the Mississippi River, "Steamboat Bill, J... more »r." follows the adventures of a spoiled young man who is forced by his crusty father (Ernest Torrence) to learn riverboating. Highlighted by remarkable special effects, the film includes the legendary stunt in which the front of a building collapses over Junior, who passes unharmed through an open window. Added to this DVD are two Keaton shorts. Surprisingly dark yet wickedly funny, "Convict 13" (1920, 20 min.) combines gallows humor with rapid-fire slapstick. In "Daydreams" (1922, 22 min.), Buster tries to establish himself in a profession--from veterinary assistant to street-sweeper to actor--and, in one of his most cleverly staged chases, is pursued by a herd of New York City "bulls." Digitally mastered from archival prints, with original musical scores.« less
Christopher J. Jarmick | Seattle, Wa. USA | 01/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As one of his last great silent films, Steamboat Bill Jr.(1928) is one of Buster Keaton's finest. Nearly a third of it's 69 minute running time is comprised of some of the most spectacular and funniest stunt work Keaton ever did. The General, Our Hospitality and the 45 minute Sherlock Jr. are better films but none are any more entertaining than Steamboat Bill Jr .Bill (Ernest Torrence) is the tough Captain and owner of the old and somewhat run-down Stonewall Jackson river boat. He is about to be run out of business by the richest man in town, King (Tom McGuire). King has built a huge, fancy river-boat and gets the Stonewall condemned. Bill then gets word that his son is going to visit him. He has not seen his son for many years-Bill Junior aka Willie, has been in college back east-and Bill Sr. imagines his son must be bigger than he is. He's pretty disappointed that not only does his son look like a 90 pound weakling, but he's got a city slicker hat on that has got to be replaced pronto. Father decides its time to make a man out of his son, while son Willie, has his eyes on a beautiful young lady (Marion Byron) who happens to be chief rival King's daughter. Father Bill ends up in jail, and Buster Willie tries to break him out. He succeeds, but is almost accosted himself so Father turns himself back in and Willie is sent to the hospital with a minor injury. Just when it looks like the old Steamboat is doomed for extinction, and Willie won't get the girl the weather changes. The final extended sequence of the film begins at the front porch of the King Hotel. King is warned that a wind storm is coming and the pier is not going to be strong enough to hold his fancy boat against the wind.The wind blows and the death defying stunts, and inventive sight gags begin. A man tries to start his car, the wind blows the hood of the car up which makes the car into a land sail boat-with the man being dragged down the street holding onto his cars bumper. The car comes to a halt in front of the King Hotel. The Pier collapses and the King Steamboat breaks away and some of its crew leap for their lives. The entire front of the King Hotel collapses into splinters and is blown away. People on the street struggle as they run for cover and shelter. Buster Willie who is in the hospital, remains in his bed as the patients and nurses flee out the hospital which is then entirely blown away. Buster tries to leave the area with remarkable calm but must leap onto his bed as it is propelled through the ruins of the town's streets and through a horse stable. In the middle of the street, Buster goes under the bed for cover. A man leaps from the second story of his house onto the bed. The Bed collapses on Buster. The wind blows the escaping man and the bed away. Then the somewhat confused Willie rises to his feet, in front of the house that will be ripped apart by the winds and give us one of the most infamous and death defying stunts in all of movie history. As he stands groggy and confused, the entire two ton facade of the house falls and crashes over him. A small window opening just happens to have passed over the very spot he is standing. Buster had positioned himself with only inches to spare so that the facade would crash over him but avoid crushing him to death. If he had missed his mark by a few inches, or if something had gone wrong, Buster Keaton would have been crushed to death. Realizing how close he has come to death, Willie tries to run, but the wind is too strong and soon he is sliding and tumbling and being blown as if he is a tumbleweed down the street. Eventually he winds up amongst stage props at what remains of the theater. More inventive gags follow leading to an exciting finale in which he must rescue his father from drowning in the Jail,the woman he loves, and more.Keaton did all of his own stunts. He designed many of them to be shot in longshots, choreographing movements so he tumbled or was dragged from end of the frame to the other. His acrobatic ability continues to amaze. It should come as no surprise that one of Keaton's biggest fans is Jackie Chan, who carries on old stone-face `s tradition quite well. The credits list Charles F. Reisner as the director of Steamboat Bill Jr., but it is unlikely Reisner even co-directed the feature with Keaton (Keaton did collaborate with Eddie Cline on several shorts). Keaton actually directed all of his feature films, sharing or giving away credit to a string of studio assigned directors who did very little work on Keaton's films.Also featured on the wonderful KINO DVD (and video) are two wonderful Keaton shorts. Convict 13 and Daydreams. Convict 13 (1920) contains some clever physical slapstick choreography while Daydreams (1922) shows the early genesis of ideas that would be fully realized in the classic Sherlock Jr., and ends with an exciting chase scene in New York City.Steamboat Bill Junior was the last film Buster made for producer Joseph M. Schenck. He would then begin his ill-fated contract with MGM. After The Camera Man and during Spite Marriage, the sound era began and MGM would team Keaton with Jimmy Durante (bad idea) and then in several mediocre comedies completely mis-using Keaton's talent and forcing severe restrictions on him. Keaton already in a bad marriage and an alcoholic, allowed his career to be destroyed. Buster Keaton is one of the top directors, and comics who ever lived. He experimented with film in ways that none of his contemporaries even dreamed of and in doing so surpasses even Chaplin and Lloyd in terms of genius. Some of the innovations he explored continue to be used by modern film-makers today. Chris Jarmick Author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder - A steamy cyber thriller available January 2001. Please order it today. Thank You"
One of the best places to start with Keaton
Michael Gebert | 03/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must disagree with Leonard Maltin; Steamboat Bill Jr. is one of Keaton's best, and as a very fluid and well-plotted example of late-silent filmmaking, it makes an excellent intro to his work for neophytes-- better perhaps than some of the more deliriously surreal comedies such as Sherlock Jr. Keaton's performance as the college boy son of a riverboat captain is generally regarded as his best acting, and the 20-30-minute hurricane sequence is one of his most remarkable feats of solo pantomime (it includes the famous clip of a building front falling on him, the window landing exactly where he stands). This tape is also worth noting for the presence on it of a recently discovered complete version of the short Convict 13, one of the last missing bits of silent Keaton."
Great DVD with lots of action
Nate Goyer | Sydney, Australia | 01/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have most of the Buster Keaton DVDs and this is one of the most fun. "Steamboat Bill Jr" is the typical Buster Keaton plot, with twice the stuntwork. The hurricane scene is one of his most famous and shows the talent, genius and dexterity of this man. Incredibly fun and entertaining for the whole family.The first short, "Convict 13" is not a very high quality print, and some parts of it get very hard to decipher, but you must remember that 1 complete reel of this film was considered lost forever until recently. At least we get to see the short in it's entirety. "Convict 13" was one of Keaton's first starring movies for Metro studios and shows him in a very slapstick-ish role; His trademark dean-pan expressionism and personality have not quite evolved at the time of this film. It's still very fun, but not as sophisticated as his later work.The final short on this DVD "Daydreams", is another 'nearly lost' classic. The DVD states that some of the footage is unavailable and they took the liberty to piece a few extra stills and title cards to make the movie flow with a comprehensible storyline. Once again, the transfer quality is not high, but better than "Convict 13". "Daydreams" is classic Keaton, complete with the chase scene of 20-30 police officers, ala "Cops" (See 'The General' DVD). There is an implied attempted suicide in "Daydreams", but it's all completely off screen.Once again, I have yet to be disappointed by a Buster Keaton DVD from Kino International. I recommend it highly."
Buster's Classic Scenes
Cheated | California USA | 03/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (1928): Never having seen each other before, preppy college student Buster arrives to meet his father at his father's riverboat town along the Mississippi River. Buster's burly father expects a tall blue-collar guy he can pass his riverboat business on to inherit but is disappointed to find a prancing Buster in pantaloons, ukulele, and a ridiculous French beret which comes to irritate his father. It's bad enough that Buster is an incompetent wreck on the boat, the worst thing he had done is get involved with the daughter of his father's enemy. Later, Buster's father gets sent to jail for trying to slug his enemy and this becomes an opportunity where Buster gets to prove himself. The last third of the movie contains some of the most classic scenes Keaton ever filmed, which involve the destruction of the town in a cyclone. Scene after scene shows Keaton bouncing around town trying to survive the desecration swirling around him. I've never seen him more athletic. This movie contains the famous scene of Keaton going through the glassless-window of the side of a 2-story house, which slams to the ground around him. You can see that the wall missed his left shoulder by about an inch. The film did not do well financially when it was released in 1928, but I think it was due to a distribution problem. As an independent filmmaker, Keaton did not release all his films from one single company, such as a good one like MGM which turned his films into hits. I think Steamboat Bill, Jr. was released by United Artists, which was a troubled company. However, Steamboat Bill, Jr. is a definite classic and deserved to be a hit.One of the offhand things I found amusing in this film is that there's an actual typo on one of the title cards! After seeing numerous silent films, I noticed that the punctuation and grammar in them is always perfect, so I was surprised to see a typo here! The title card that says "That must of happened when the dough fell in the tool chest" should read "That must've happened when the dough fell in the tool chest".CONVICT 13 (1920): Another one of Keaton's early shorts, this one has the rambunctious quality similar to the shorts he did with Arbuckle a few years earlier. Buster gets kicked out of his golfing clothes by an escaped convict and winds up in that guy's stripes. He ends up in prison where we are shown quickly-paced gag after gag involving prisoners and guards. The print on this DVD is OK, but there are a few shots that appear mushy and unfocused. Still, Convict 13 is well worth a watch numerous times.DAYDREAMS (1922): Daydreams shows Buster trying to win his gal by claiming through letters that he's a successful career-guy-on-the-go, when actually he's the opposite and most of the film shows him getting into trouble in the jobs he's too embarrassed to admit he has. There's a warning at the beginning that a few scenes from the original print have been lost, but it doesn't really matter, unless you've seen those scenes and know what you're missing. I noticed that a classic scene of Buster on the paddlewheel of a boat was cut a little but it didn't bother me much. Daydreams shows a lot of filmed-on-location scenes, which I prefer over his studio soundstage filmmaking."
Steamboat Bill Jr
Brother Frank | Mc Kinney, Tx. United States | 09/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"STEAMBOAT BILL JR. ranks as one of Buster's best. Great stunt work by Buster. Steamboat Jr. includes one of the greatest stunts of all-time (during the storm). Also some very funny scenes. The scene where Buster attempts to get his father out of jail is great. Ditto for the hat scene. Buster starts out as a weakling from Boston and ends up as a hero. This is the only Buster movie that has a father (Ernest Torrence) son bond that lasts. Steamboat Jr. is Buster's final movie before MGM. A great one! This tape also includes two shorts: Convict 13 and Daydreams. CONVICT 13 is very strong. Buster tangles with Big Joe Roberts in prison. For some reason Joe Roberts looks like a giant in Convict 13. DAYDREAMS is very good (but parts are missing)."