Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Go West (1925)

I’m a little overdue for digging into any silent movies, so let’s get back to it with the 1925 Buster Keaton comedy Go West!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hand Is Pinker Than The Eye (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 15 seconds)

On a cold winter’s day, the Pink Panther sneaks into a house to get warm. What he doesn’t know is that the house belongs to magician Zammo the Great, and the Panther has to contend with all sorts of magical troubles! This one is quite a bit of fun, with all the different magical gags. In particular, the Pink Panther has to keep dealing with a pesky rabbit, who keeps messing around with the house! This is one of the better Pink Panther cartoons, and one I certainly enjoy coming back to!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In his hometown in Indiana, Friendless (Buster Keaton) is unable to get a job, so he decides to sell everything he has. He doesn’t get much for it, just enough for a loaf of bread and some meat. He hops a train to New York City, but he finds the city waaaaay too crowded. Thinking on the advice of Horace Greeley (you know, “Go west, young man, go west”), he hops on a train to Santa Fe. Along the way, he accidentally rolls off the train while hiding in a barrel, and finds himself stranded in the desert. Walking around, he comes to the Diamond Bar Ranch. There, the ranch owner (Howard Truesdale) gives him a job as a cowboy. Due to his lack of experience, he struggles early on with the various jobs he is given. He soon makes a friend, though, when he pulls a stone out of the hoof of a cow named Brown Eyes. Brown Eyes returns the favor by saving him when he gets his foot caught and a bull charges him. With his new friend alongside him, things are starting to look up for Friendless. However, that feeling is short-lived, as the ranch owner needs to sell his cattle to a stockyard (although another rancher doesn’t want him to, as that other rancher is holding out for a higher price). Still, the Diamond Bar Ranch owner insists on sending the cattle to the stockyard right away (with that group including Brown Eyes). When Friendless finds out that Brown Eyes is going, he tries to stop the ranch owner, but he only gets fired for his efforts. His severance pay isn’t enough to buy Brown Eyes, and, in an attempt to win enough at poker, he loses everything. So he decides to get on the train with Brown Eyes. On the way to the Los Angeles stockyard, the train is stopped by the other rancher and some of his men. The men from the Diamond Bar Ranch win the fight, but the train is started up and leaves before the men can get back on (except for Friendless). He is able to stop the train in L.A., and ponders leaving with just Brown Eyes. However, he remembers overhearing how the Diamond Bar Ranch owner is facing financial ruin if the cattle can’t get to the stockyard, and decides to walk them through L.A. But will his efforts work, or will the cattle run completely amuck with only one man trying to lead them?

Go West was shot on location about sixty miles from Kingman, Arizona. Of course, doing so caused some trouble with the heat (which at times reached nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit) threatening to melt the emulsion on the film stock, requiring the cameras to be packed in ice. Buster Keaton trained the cow Brown Eyes himself, which caused production to be delayed a few weeks when she was in heat (and the combination of her appearance and training meant that she couldn’t be easily replaced). For the stampede at the end of the movie, the cattle were let loose in parts of L.A., with cowboys placed on the streets to keep people from driving into the shots. At the time, reviews were mixed, and, while it did decently at the box office, the costs of filming on location kept it from being a bigger hit.

Go West was the first silent Buster Keaton movie that I ever had the opportunity to see (with In The Good Old Summertime being the first Buster Keaton movie I saw overall). Of course, the fact that I’ve seen more of his films since then is certainly a good indication that I liked this one! I’ll admit, having worked with cows all my life probably made this one a lot easier for me (not to mention my family) to enjoy! I know we were all quite impressed with how well-trained the cow Brown Eyes was! I will admit, the two instances of a bull/steer “charging” (with the camera right behind looking down) certainly looked quite fake, but, then again, I wouldn’t trust a real bull or steer if it was charging, so I have to give Buster Keaton props for making it look at least decent! And, of course, Buster Keaton is still up to some of his usual pratfalls and stunts (which are always fun to watch)! I will certainly say, though, that final scene of him taking all the cattle through L.A. is both fun and hilarious (and, again, knowing cattle, I’m not surprised when some of them start to go off on their own instead of going where they’re supposed to)! I may be partial to this one since it was my first Buster Keaton silent, but I still say it’s a very fun movie, and one worth recommending!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Go West (1925)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with College (1927) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4.” According to the info shown at the beginning of the movie, several sources were used to create the 4K restoration included on this Blu-ray (since the original camera negative was incomplete and very much affected by chemical decay). Even with multiple sources, this movie looks quite good the vast majority of the time! The detail is easily visible, and most of the damage has been taken care of. There are moments (no doubt due to inferior elements) where it looks a bit more washed out and loses some of the detail, but for a nearly 96 year-old movie (or 95, if we’re counting when this Blu-ray was actually released), it’s still a pretty good transfer, and well worth seeing!

Film Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Seven Chances (1925) – Buster Keaton – Battling Butler (1926)

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