What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Navigator (1924)

And now we have yet another Buster Keaton silent comedy, the 1924 film The Navigator.

On a whim, wealthy Rollo Treadway (Buster Keaton) decides to get married to his girlfriend, Betsy O’Brien (Kathryn McGuire). He has his servant make plans for a honeymoon trip to Honolulu, but when he goes to ask Betsy to marry him, she turns him down. Since he still has the ticket, he decides to get on the boat the night before and take the trip anyways, but he mistakenly gets on the Navigator, a ship Betsy’s father had sold to one of two countries at war. Some spies from the opposing country decide to cut it loose instead of letting the other country have it. Betsy got on the ship just before they cut it loose, and so both Betsy and Rollo are left on the ship, at first unaware of each other’s presence. However, even when they find each other, they are still in trouble, as they have both been pampered all their lives and don’t know how to take care of themselves. They soon learn, as they end up stuck on the boat for weeks. The only time they pass a ship, they unknowingly fly a flag indicating the ship is quarantined. The ship ends up running aground near a land where a tribe of cannibals are watching. Betsy is kidnapped while Rollo is diving to make ship repairs, so he must find a way to get her back and fight them off too!

After Sherlock Jr. had failed to connect with audiences as much as he would have hoped, Buster was in need of a good idea for his next movie. He had been wanting to do another nautical film after the success of his 1921 short The Boat, and he was provided with a good opportunity to do so again. One of his assistants found the ocean liner The Buford when it was being used in production for the 1924 film The Sea Hawk, and he told Buster about it. Buster was able to lease the ship, and so they all tried to come up with a story to work around the boat. Buster tried to hire Donald Crisp as a co-director to help film the more dramatic aspects, but ran into trouble when Donald Crisp decided to concentrate on doing comedic material, and so Buster effectively had to redo everything that Donald Crisp shot after he left the project.

Now, I’ve seen this film mentioned as being one of Buster Keaton’s masterpieces, but, quite frankly, I don’t get the appeal of this one as much. I admit, I’m coming off my first viewing, and maybe my opinion will improve with time, but a few things just didn’t settle well with me. Firstly, I half expected the spy stuff at the beginning to have more importance instead of just being a plot device to have the ship sent off with just the two of them aboard. And I also have a hard time figuring how the two of them were able to figure out not only how to operate the diving equipment on their first try, but, when they have to make repairs, they are able to do it. I can understand being able to get food together and stuff, but, given they still don’t know how to operate the ship, that just bothers me that they can figure out how to repair it when the ship runs aground and starts taking on water.

Now, let me be clear: just because I have a few things against the movie does NOT mean I didn’t like it, as I did! I enjoyed the moments of stuff they had to figure out (and make mistakes doing) on the first day, and how they figured things out successfully. Their method of the various strings and ropes to help them in the kitchen reminded me strongly of one of Buster’s earlier shorts, The Scarecrow (1920), in which he used a similar method. And all the stuff going on that first night when they tried to figure out where to sleep, from a frightening portrait (of former director Donald Crisp, no less) that was mistaken for observing one of them, to trying to sleep out in the rain, to Kathryn’s character almost falling off the ship were fun! Then we see how they solved the sleeping arrangement problem by sleeping in the two boilers in the boiler room (since they weren’t using them). Plus, the whole scene of them trying to fight off the cannibals was a lot of fun. So, while it wasn’t my favorite Buster Keaton movie, it still goes to show that every silent film of his that I have seen so far has been enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend giving this one a try!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with Sherlock Jr. (1924) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 2.” While this is my only experience with the movie, I certainly feel that the restoration here looks pretty good, and the two films together make for a fun set! Well worth at that price, in my opinion! This movie is one hour, six minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Buster Keaton – Seven Chances (1925)

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Royal Four-Flusher (1947)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)

While Popeye and Olive are in the park, they run into Count Marvo (AKA Bluto) the magician, who catches Olive’s eye (for a while, anyways). Obviously, we have Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive, with Bluto winning at first as he keeps playing magical pranks on Popeye, until he locks Olive up in a straight jacket. The gags work well enough here, that it’s worth a few good laughs (not to mention having Jack Mercer voicing Popeye just makes things seem right again)! One I enjoyed a lot!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 2 set), along with other shorts!

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