Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… College (1927)

Following up last week’s review of the Buster Keaton silent comedy Go West, we’ve got ANOTHER Buster Keaton silent. This time, it’s the 1927 film College.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Outs (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, 14 seconds)

In this Pink Panther cartoon, there is no story. It’s just a series of different gags, switching from one activity to another. Some are funny, others not so much. There is no real relation between everything going on, although the final one (with him mowing the lawn) builds on another one from earlier in the short. Honestly, the overall short is decent, but not that memorable. The Panther is generally better when there is a slight story being served by various gags, and not just a series of un-related ones.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s high school graduation day at Union High School in California, and everyone is excited! The scholarly Ronald (Buster Keaton) gives a speech on “The Curse Of Athletics,” talking about how much more important education is than sports. However, his speech doesn’t go over well with the crowd (well, except for his mother, played by Florence Turner). In particular, the girl that he likes, Mary Haynes (Anne Cornwall), is furious with him, as she prefers the athletic type, like Jeff Brown (Harold Goodwin), whom she is dating. Jeff and Mary are off to the more athletically-inclined Clayton College, and Ronald decides to join them. The Dean (Snitz Edwards) is thrilled to have him at Clayton, and hopes that Ronald’s study habits will rub off on his athletic classmates. However, Ronald wants to try his hand at sports in an attempt to regain Mary’s affections, and tries out for the baseball and track teams (and fails miserably at both). As a result of his athletic attempts, his grades suffer, and Ronald is called in to see the Dean. The Dean is sympathetic when he hears why Ronald is trying to concentrate on sports, and makes him the coxswain for the rowing team. Of course, this doesn’t go over well with the crew coach (Carl Harbaugh) or the team, but for the moment, they are stuck with Ronald due to the Dean’s order. On the day of the race, the coach tries to drug Ronald with his drink, but the guy that everybody else wants to be the coxswain accidentally drinks it, and passes out. With no alternative, the team is stuck with Ronald for the race. Will he be able to help them win? Will his attempts finally gain the affections of the girl he loves?

In 1926, Buster Keaton completed what many would later call his one of his masterpieces, The General. However, audiences and critics of the time didn’t take to it very well, and he decided to go a more commercial route for his next film. Audiences were crazy about college at the time (and Harold Lloyd himself had had one of his biggest hits with the college-themed The Freshman), so that was the direction Buster Keaton elected to go. While he plays a (mostly) non-athletic character, that was obviously not the case in real life, with all the various stunts and pratfalls that he could do, so he actually had to hold back a little on his abilities (although he used a stunt double, which was a first for him, for a scene with him pole-vaulting through a window, figuring he didn’t want to spend months trying to train for it). Of course, he was plagued with some behind-the-scenes troubles, as his usual producer, Joseph Schenck, was unable to be that involved with the production (he had just become the president of United Artists), and left his publicity chief Harry Brand in charge (who made a nuisance of himself by frequently pestering Buster Keaton). Like with The General, critics and audiences didn’t care for the film, with the results being that he ended up making the career-destroying move of signing with MGM after Steamboat Bill, Jr.

I think Buster Keaton’s presence certainly makes this movie work! His athletic abilities really come in handy for the stunts that he tries to do with the various sports his character tries to do! And it is those mishaps (mostly when trying baseball and the various events in track) when this movie is at its funniest! It’s hard not to cheer for him, especially when, despite all the stuff that keeps happening, he manages to help the rowing team! I do think the film has some issues, though, that work against it. We are shown two attempts by his character to get a job to pay for college. The first has him working as a soda jerk, which is fine, as it is also one of the funnier bits in the film. The second, however, has him working at a restaurant. The problem? The “help wanted” sign was advertising for a “colored waiter” (which means he dons blackface to hold the job). Especially with him acting out some stereotypes to hide his presence, that whole section has aged very poorly (and, since nothing further is shown of him working after he is fired there, leaves you almost feeling like the job hunt is just there to pad out the movie a little). I’m also not thrilled with the last few seconds of the ending, which come out of nowhere and almost seem out of place for what the rest of the film is doing. Again, though, it’s only a few seconds, and not enough to ruin the rest of the movie. It’s an entertaining movie, which provided a few good laughs (even with its issues). It’s hard not to compare it to Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, though, which I felt was done much better (and doesn’t have stuff like the blackface and stereotypes that have aged poorly). Still, this one is enough fun that I look forward to watching it again, along with some of the other Buster Keaton silents!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… College (1927)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with Go West (1925) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4.” According to the info at the beginning of the movie, this transfer made use of a third generation safety dupe positive and second generation safety dupe negative. Given that, it looks fairly obvious that this transfer isn’t quite as good as the one for Go West on the same disc. It’s pretty good overall, don’t get me wrong, but the detail isn’t quite as visible, and some spots (especially the opening credits and intertitles) look a bit rougher. It’s still good enough to enjoy the movie, though, and with Go West looking as good as it does, I think this release is still worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 6 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The General (1926) – Buster Keaton – Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

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

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… The Freshman (1925)

And now, for one of my final reviews of the year, we have that classic Harold Lloyd silent comedy, The Freshman!

Harold “Speedy” Lamb (Harold Lloyd) is really looking forward to college. He has been learning the various chants for Tate College, as well as learning a dance-type of greeting from a college movie he had seen. Once he arrives at Tate, though, he soon finds himself in trouble. The College Cad (Brooks Benedict), who has a thing for picking on the incoming freshman, senses a golden opportunity with Harold as he pretends to be a friend while making fun of him. The Cad convinces Harold to make a speech to the student body, and afterwards, when Harold offers to treat his new friends to ice cream, the crowd becomes much bigger as the Cad keeps inviting others to come along, earning Harold the nickname “Speedy The Spender.” The Cad suggests that, if he wants to be as popular as the college hero, Chester Trask (James Anderson), he should go out for the football team. The Football Coach (Pat Harmon) doesn’t think he’s good enough for the team, but Chester convinces him to let Harold be the water boy, while they let him think he is part of the team. Harold decides to give a big party for the Fall Frolic, in the hopes of ensuring his popularity. Of course, he has trouble with his suit, as the College Tailor (Joseph Harrington) had barely managed to put it together in time, and the suit ends up coming apart throughout the evening (with the tailor helping try to stitch it back together). However, the Cad tries to force himself on Harold’s girlfriend Peggy (Jobyna Ralston), which results in Harold fighting him off. In anger, the Cad reveals how much of a joke that Harold is to everybody, bursting his bubble. However, still believing himself to be an important member of the football team, Harold looks forward to the big game, where he hopes to prove himself. But, can this water boy manage to help out in the game?

While not his best-known film (which would be Safety Last!), The Freshman would prove to be one of Harold Lloyd’s most financially successful films. Personally, I can VERY easily see why! I’ve seen the movie several times now, and it’s one I like coming back to, as it has many memorable moments! The Fall Frolic party in particular stands out the most, as Harold tries to be a good host, even though he has a big problem: the tailor wasn’t able to finish the tuxedo, which means Harold has to be careful about how he moves! Of course, you know he’ll make his own mistakes, but others will accidentally pull the suit apart, too! Easily a lot of fun there!

And that’s not even going into some of the other good stuff, either! He also has a speech he’s conned into giving to the student body, as well as football practice and the big game as well! And it’s something simple, but I enjoy the special dance/greeting he uses whenever he meets somebody! I admit, I wouldn’t mind being able to learn it (or something similar of my own design, since I should try to be myself and not someone else). Of course, in light of the pandemic, the idea of learning that special handshake is certainly a moot point for the time being, anyway. Still, this movie gives me a lot of laughs, from start to finish, and allows me to think of happier times. Easily a movie I would quite heartily recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 17 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Safety Last! (1923) – Harold Lloyd – The Kid Brother (1927)

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Marathon (1919)

(available as an extra on The Freshman (1925) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 13 minutes, 58 seconds)

Two men fight over the chance to take a girl to see the marathon, with her retired boxer father trying to make his choice known. Very fun short, featuring Harold Lloyd’s older brother Gaylord doing the “mirror gag” routine, and rather hilariously, too! Of course, Harold has fun with some other stunts, including being dragged around by a small dog, as well as his antics fighting with everybody. Only complaint is a minor character, who is very obviously wearing blackface. Still, a short I enjoy returning to every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… An Eastern Westerner (1920)

(available as an extra on The Freshman (1925) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 27 minutes, 37 seconds)

A young man (Harold) is sent West after getting into trouble by spending all night out at nightclubs. Out west, he runs afoul of the local big shot, who is trying to get the girl (Mildred Davis). Some fun as we see Harold get into trouble first at the nightclub, and then, when he gets out West, he tries (and fails) to look like he belongs. But, he manages to be a hero when he needs to be, and the final chase is fun in between all his stunts and getting the bad guys to turn on each other!

Coming Up Shorts! with… High And Dizzy (1920)

(available as an extra on The Freshman (1925) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 27 minutes, 15 seconds)

Harold Lloyd plays a doctor with a new practice, who meets and falls for one of his new patients, Mildred (except her father doesn’t want him to treat her for her sleepwalking). When he gets drunk helping a doctor friend save his brew, he finds himself in the hotel Mildred is in, and deals with her sleepwalking on the ledge. A fun short, even if it is somewhat uneven. We first start out with the stuff with Mildred, switch gears and deal with Harold being drunk, before returning to Mildred in time for the finish. Still, the gags are fairly funny, and it’s fun to see Harold out on the building ledge (especially as he quickly sobers up from the experience)!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… The Gold Rush (1925)

Well, Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and, as I wanted to take part in A Blogathon To Be Thankful For, hosted by Sally Silverscreen of 18 Cinema Lane, I thought I would chime in with the classic Charlie Chaplin film The Gold Rush! Of course, we have a fun theatrical short to get through first, and then it’s on to the main feature!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Tom Turk And Daffy (1944)

(Length: 7 minutes, 18 seconds)

Daffy helps hide Tom Turk from Porky, until Porky mistakes Daffy for a turkey! An old Looney Tunes cartoon that I’ve seen many a time over the years, and yet it’s still worth a few good laughs! I love watching the things Daffy does to Tom as he tries to hide him, only for the tables to turn at the end as Tom returns the “favor!” It’s a bit of a stretch to call this one a Thanksgiving cartoon, but Porky is dressed like a Pilgrim, and he’s hunting for a turkey dinner, so let’s go ahead and call it one! It’s fun to watch whether it’s around Thanksgiving or any other time of the year!

And now for the main feature…

(Host): One thing I should say before I dig too far into The Gold Rush. There are at least two different versions of this tale. The movie was first released in 1925 as a silent movie, which obviously became a classic. When 1942 rolled around, Charlie Chaplin was coming off his first full-blown sound film with The Great Dictator, and he wanted to revive The Gold Rush for audiences who had little to no experience with silent movies. So, he messed around with the movie, adding narration and dialogue (all done by him), removing the intertitles, adding a score, and editing out a few scenes to change up the movie a little. In doing so, he removed the earlier silent film from availability, and it took a long time before some were able to go back and reconstruct it in the 1990s. Now, in describing the story, I will for the most part be working from the 1925 silent film. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll hand things over to our narrator! Take it away!

(Narrator): (Holds up a sign)

(Narrator): (Holds up another sign)

(Narrator): (Holds up yet another sign)

(Host): Um… What are you doing?

(Narrator): This is a silent movie, right? Well, I’m using intertitles to let everyone know what’s going on!

(Host): You do realize this is a blog post, and not a video, right? They need to actually be able to read what we’re saying!

(Narrator): Oh! That’s right! (Clears throat) Wandering through the Alaskan wilderness, we find the Lone Prospector (Charlie Chaplin), as he searches for gold. On a mountain, another prospector, Big Jim KcKay (Mack Swain), has found a mountain of gold and staked his claim. A big storm blows up, and both of them are pushed into a cabin occupied by Black Larsen (Tom Murray). They soon find themselves without food, and, after drawing lots, Black Larsen is sent out to find food, while the other two remain.

(Host): Time for the Thanksgiving dinner!

(Narrator): So what’s cooking for them?

(Host): Shoe.

(Narrator): Shoe?

(Host): Shoe. With nothing else to eat, the Lone Prospector decides to boil a shoe for the two of them (Well, not really. Technically, the shoe was made of black licorice and hard candy for the actors to eat, but, as far as we the audience are concerned, it’s a shoe). It’s not much, but it’s all they have to work with for their Thanksgiving dinner. Big Jim struggles with the shoe leather, but the Lone Prospector is able to eat the sole and the laces easily, relishing the meal. Obviously, it doesn’t exactly sound like an appetizing meal, but, it’s still more than nothing. Certainly a good reminder to be thankful for the good meals that most of us get to enjoy!

(Narrator): Indeed! But, that’s all the food they have for a time, and the Lone Prospector starts to look mighty tasty to Big Jim. Lucky for the Prospector, a bear wanders in, and they shoot it, providing a good meal. With the winter storm ending and food in their bellies, the Prospector and Big Jim part ways. Big Jim returns to his claim, where he finds Black Larsen trying to steal his gold. They fight, but Black Larsen manages to hit Big Jim on the head with a shovel and get away. Nature, however, is not kind to Black Larsen, as he shortly falls off a cliff when the ground breaks away beneath him. Big Jim awakes, but his memory is foggy as he wanders around aimlessly.

(Host): And what of the Prospector? Isn’t this his story?

(Narrator): I’m getting to him! He makes his way into town, stopping in at a dance hall one night. While there, he meets the Girl, Georgia (Georgia Hale), who is one of the dance hall girls. She is stuck dealing with ladies’ man Jack Cameron (Malcom Waite), who wants to dance with her, but she refuses, and chooses to dance with the Prospector.

(The Garland Waltz starts playing in the background)

(Narrator): Ah yes, beautiful music. It would be a wonderful dance, except for one thing: partway through, the Prospector loses his belt, and has to find different ways to keep his pants up.

(Host): Yes, indeed. For me, this is one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. The music itself obviously stood out to me when I first saw this movie a few years back (and how can it not, considering how well known that tune is as the classic “Once Upon A Dream”). Combine the familiar tune with the Prospector’s attempts to keep his pants up, and it’s a very hard scene to forget!

(Narrator): Quite so. But, getting back to the tale at hand, Jack is less than thrilled with this, and the Prospector tries to fight him off (with the aid of a clock that gets knocked down from above). The next day, the Prospector finds a cabin nearby, where Hank Curtis (Henry Bergman) lives. He pretends to be frozen, so that Hank will bring him in and offer him warmth and food. While Hank goes off to do some mining, the Prospector looks after the cabin for him. At one point, Georgia and some of the other girls from the dance hall come around and get into a snowball fight. Hearing the snowballs hit the door, the Prospector opens up, only to get hit in the face with one. Apologetic, Georgia and the gals come in for a moment, much to the Prospector’s delight. While he is out getting firewood, Georgia sees a photograph of her that he has stashed away, and they decide to tease him just a bit. They act interested in him, and when he invites them to dinner on New Year’s Eve, they accept. In his joy, the Prospector does what he can to earn money, by shoveling snow and doing other odd jobs, so that he can afford dinner for everyone. However, when New Year’s Eve rolls around, everybody is at the dance hall to celebrate, and the Prospector, alone at the cabin, falls asleep waiting for his guests. He is awakened by the sounds coming from the dance hall around midnight, and leaves to look for them. Meanwhile, Georgia remembers that they promised to join the Prospector, and they bring Jack along to the cabin to continue with their little joke. But, when Georgia sees the effort that the Prospector had put into the dinner, she realizes the joke has gone too far, and decides to leave. Jack tries to kiss her, but she rejects his advances as she goes out the door.

(Host): What about Big Jim? What’s going on with him?

(Narrator): I’m coming back around to him. After wandering around, Big Jim had made it into town, and tried to register his claim. However, the bump on his head left him with partial amnesia, and he couldn’t remember the location. All he knew was that it was near the cabin, but he couldn’t remember where that was either. Anyways, getting back to everyone else, the following day at the dance hall, Georgia sends a note to Jack, apologizing for her actions at the cabin. Right after that, the Prospector comes in, and Jack, in a cruel mood, decides to give him the note, and let him think that Georgia intended the note for him. Ecstatic, the Prospector tries to find her, but Big Jim had wandered in, and, remembering his friend, convinced him to help him find the cabin in exchange for a share in the gold. They travel together to the cabin, where they fall asleep, exhausted. That night, a winter storm begins to blow –

(Wind begins to blow through the stage, with snow falling throughout)

(Host): (shouting) Hey, wait a minute! We don’t need that here! And is this real snow? Who left the door open?!? Close it up, and let’s go with the flakes instead of the real stuff. No, wait, let’s not even use that, the audience is getting the idea. Move on, good sir!

(Narrator): Ok. The wind and storm ends up blowing the cabin away while they sleep (I’d say “Shades Of Wizard Of Oz,” except this film predates that film classic). In the morning, when they awake, the cabin is resting on the edge of a cliff, barely being held up, with their weight evenly distributed between the two halves. When they get out (and the cabin falls off the cliff), they find they are at Big Jim’s claim, and are two rich men! But, with all that wealth, are they (or, more particularly, the Prospector) happy?

(Host): The Gold Rush was inspired both by the actual gold rush in the Klondike, as well as the Donner party from 1846, who had had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Supposedly, The Gold Rush is the film Charlie Chaplin most wanted to be remembered for, and I would definitely say that, of the handful of his films that I’ve been able to see, it is probably my favorite. I will readily admit that I prefer the earlier silent version of the story, as opposed to Chaplin’s later preferred version with his own narration. I think the overall plot works better in the silent film, particularly with Jack’s rather cruel joke being cut in the later version (technically, he gives the Prospector the note, but there’s nothing showing that it was originally intended for him or him planning to play the joke), which seems a little out of character in my opinion. Regardless of which version, though, it’s a fun film I’ve seen numerous times over the last couple of years. The comedy always makes it worthwhile, whether it be the Tramp struggling to walk in the wind blowing through the cabin, or Chaplin’s little dance using rolls on forks, or the “clown with his pants falling down” (to borrow the lyrics of the classic song “That’s Entertainment”)! A great movie, and one that deserves to be seen! So, this is indeed one I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. The 1925 version included in that release is one hour, twenty-nine minutes in length, and the 1942 re-release is one hour, twelve minutes in length.

And before I finish, I definitely want to thank Sally Silverscreen for hosting this wonderful blogathon. It’s been fun re-watching this classic Chaplin film, and one of many I’m thankful to be able to watch (especially since I feel blessed to have a good meal instead of a shoe)! So, again, thank you!

My Rating: 10/10 (1925) and 9/10 (1942)

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Kid (1921) – Charlie Chaplin – The Circus (1928)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Safety Last! (1923)

We’re back again, this time with another classic silent comedy featuring Harold Lloyd, the 1923 movie Safety Last!

At the train station in Great Bend, Harold (Harold Lloyd, of course) prepares to leave for the big city. He says goodbye to his mother and his fiancee, Mildred (Mildred Davis), promising to send for her when he’s made his fortune. Fast forward several months, and we find he is living in an apartment with his friend, Limpy Bill (Bill Strother). Instead of saving his money to help pay the bills like he should, Harold keeps spending it on jewelry that he sends to Mildred (along with letters bragging about how well he is doing). In reality, he is just a salesclerk at the De Vore Department Store, where he has to deal with some unruly customers, as well as the stuffy floorwalker Mr. Stubbs (Westcott B. Clarke). One day, after leaving work to meet his friend Bill, Harold runs into an old friend from Great Bend who has become a policeman. After quickly talking with him, Harold meets up with Bill, and, bragging that the police will let him get away with anything, urges Bill to help him play a prank on the policeman. However, the policeman they play a prank on is NOT Harold’s friend, but somebody else entirely! Harold is able to hide quickly before he is spotted, but Bill isn’t that lucky, and has to run away, climbing one of the nearby buildings to get away. The policeman (Noah Young) vows to arrest Bill the next time he sees him. More trouble comes for Harold with a big sale in the department store, with the unruly customers getting him in trouble with Mr. Stubbs. Then Mildred arrives to surprise him, and, boy, is he surprised! He has to find a way to both do his job while also appearing to be in a much higher position in the company. As he is trying to get her to leave, he overhears the store’s manager tell the floorwalker that he would pay a lot of money to somebody who could come up with a gimmick to get more people in the store. Remembering how his buddy climbed up a building, Harold bursts in and suggests an event in which a mystery man would climb the exterior of the department store. The manager likes the idea and decides to run with it. Harold calls Bill to tell him about it, and offers to split the money. However, the policeman they had played a prank on shows up, and it is suggested Harold should climb the first floor while Bill evades the policeman. Except that’s not so easy, as Harold has to keep climbing while the policeman chases Bill!

This movie’s most well-known scene (and possibly Harold Lloyd’s most famous from his entire career) is him climbing up the department store building (particularly when he is hanging onto the broken clock). The whole idea was inspired by Bill Strothers, who did his own “human fly” act of climbing a building and doing other stunts at the top, something that Harold Lloyd saw walking through Los Angeles. He got Bill Strothers under contract at the Hal Roach studio for this film, playing his buddy “Limpy Bill” (and obviously doing his own climbing, as well as doubling for Harold for some shots). I know I enjoy watching this whole scene unfold in the movie every time. Just because of what life is like for me, it’s rare for me to be able to watch an entire movie all in one sitting (outside of when I see it in theatres or watch movies with friends, neither of which is exactly happening now for obvious reasons). Because of that, I can guarantee that, whenever I get to this scene in the movie, I need enough time to stay for the whole climb, because I find it so gripping that I just cannot bring myself to leave until Harold is at the top of the building! The whole scene manages to make you laugh even while keeping you on the edge of your seat!

Of course, the rest of the movie is fun, too! I know I enjoy watching the whole scene where Harold is trying to do his job all while convincing his girlfriend that he’s a big man at the department store. I love the reactions of some of his coworkers, who are rendered speechless as he attempts to “demonstrate” how to do their jobs. Then the follow-up, as he tries to appear to be the general manager when Mildred makes that mistaken assumption. His methods of getting past his co-workers (and the general manager, when he returns to his office) are all hilarious! Easily a lot of fun to see!

Now, I’ll admit, when I was trying to plan when I would post this review, I had no thoughts or plans on connecting it to Halloween (which will be in less than a week). Still, on thinking it over, I can’t help but think the movie is almost appropriate. I mean, we have Harold pretending to be something he isn’t, especially with regards to his girlfriend for the entire movie. He may not be wearing a literal mask, but he’s still wearing one just the same. This idea continues for the climb up the building as well. All the press for the event keeps the identity of the climber a secret, and Harold is forced to step in when the cop looking for his buddy shows up. Harold and his buddy make plans to change outfits on a higher floor to keep up the ruse (except Bill still can’t evade the policeman). And, as for thrills, Harold’s climb up the building certainly does provide them! They may not be the same as dealing with monsters, or being stalked by serial killers (or whatever other types of Halloween movies you can think of), but I think it works well enough! Of course, regardless of what time of year you see this movie, it’s still a great classic, and one I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Harold Lloyd – The Freshman (1925)

And now, for my feature on theatrical shorts, featuring the three shorts included as extras on this release!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Take A Chance (1918)

(available as an extra on the Safety Last! Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 21 seconds)

After spending his last quarter, the Sport (Harold Lloyd) tries to go on a picnic with a Hired Girl (Bebe Daniels) with unforeseen results! As usual, Harold Lloyd gets in a lot of physical comedy, as he tries to deal with another suitor for Bebe Daniel’s character’s affections. Admittedly, the story goes all over the pace, as an escaped convict changes clothes with him and the guards/policemen start chasing him! Many fun gags here, which certainly make this one a lot of fun!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Young Mr. Jazz (1919)

(available as an extra on the Safety Last! Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 50 seconds)

Harold (Harold Lloyd) takes the Girl (Bebe Daniels) to The Bowery Cafe. Many fun gags here, as we start out on the beach with the Girl and her father (played by Bud Jamison), with Harold traveling under the sand like a submarine! Once in the cafe, we also see them dealing with all the tough characters in there, particularly with one ridiculous moment where pickpockets steal from both Harold and the Girl! Even more fun as we see Harold and Bebe doing some fancy dancing! It’s Harold Lloyd, so it’s still worth a few good laughs!

Coming Up Shorts! with… His Royal Slyness (1920)

(available as an extra on the Safety Last! Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 21 minutes, 46 seconds)

Harold Lloyd plays a book salesman, who resembles the Prince of Thermosa, and is paid to go back in place of the Prince, who is supposed to marry a princess (played by Mildred Davis). Slightly longer short, compared to the other two in this set, but a lot of fun, with some “Prince And The Pauper” vibes going for it (and the prince played by Harold Lloyd’s real older brother!). Of course, throw in a peasant’s revolution that also occurs, plus a princess that disguises herself to go among the common people, and it’s a lot of fun here! Maybe not quite Harold’s best short, but I enjoy seeing this one every now and then!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Speedy (1928)

Now, for some rather timely fun, we’ve got Harold Lloyd’s 1928 silent comedy Speedy!

Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd) is obsessed with baseball. So much so that he keeps getting in trouble at work, including his most recent job as a soda jerk. In spite of being fired from his job, he still decides to take his girlfriend, Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), to the Coney Island amusement park. After a long day of fun (and spending all his money), the two of them catch a ride home on a friend’s moving truck. On the way, Harold proposes marriage, but Jane turns him down. She wants to marry him, but currently she is worried about her grandfather, Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff). He currently owns (and runs) the last horse-drawn trolley in New York City, but a railroad magnate wants the route (although he is unwilling to meet Pop’s and, quite frankly, Harold’s asking price). The next day, Harold gets a job as a taxi driver, although he quickly gets a few tickets from the police. One of his fares turns out to be Yankee player Babe Ruth (as played by himself), who needs to get to the baseball stadium. After the cab ride, he invites Harold in to see the game. While there, Harold overhears the railroad magnate on the phone trying to hire a bunch of thugs to destroy Pop’s trolley (and injure him) the next day. Harold elects to take Pop’s place the next day, and, with the help of the neighborhood, fights them off. That night, though, the trolley is stolen, and, since Pop’s contract with the city requires him to make a run once every twenty-four hours, Harold must rush to find it before time runs out and Pop’s route is worthless!

The movie was shot on location in sites such as the old Penn Station, Yankee Stadium, and Coney Island’s Luna Park. Of course, due to Harold Lloyd’s popularity at the time, they had to hide the camera and secretly film their scenes at Coney Island to avoid attracting attention from adoring fans. Due to the location shooting, the costs were higher on this film than on his previous movie, The Kid Brother, yet the movie still proved to be a big hit. It also turned out to be Harold’s last silent movie, as the advent of sound had begun the year before with the success of The Jazz Singer, and while Harold took on talking pictures, he no longer enjoyed the success he had had with his silent comedies.

Like the other Harold Lloyd silent comedies that I’ve seen (besides The Kid Brother, I have two more reviewed that will be showing up within the year), I really enjoyed Speedy! There are many fun moments here, from the section at Coney Island, to the final last-ditch trolley run, to the fight just before it that is between the thugs and the American Civil War veterans in the neighborhood (and remember, this is set in the 1920s, so these guys aren’t exactly young, here). But, especially at this time of the year, with the baseball season coming to a close, the fun is all the baseball-related antics for most of the movie. Harold’s way of using donuts and pretzels in a display case to show the baseball score for some of his coworkers at the soda fountain is rather clever and amusing. But, obviously, Babe Ruth’s cameo as one of Harold’s cab fares is one of the film’s highlights. With Harold mainly paying attention to his passenger and ignoring the road, you can’t help but laugh while simultaneously sitting on the edge of your seat as he somehow manages to avoid crashing into traffic! While suicide itself is not a laughing matter, you can’t help but chuckle at Babe Ruth’s line of “If I ever want to commit suicide, I’ll call you” at the end of his cab ride. But, again, this is an enjoyable movie, one I don’t mind seeing any time of the year! This year, it’s more fun at this time if only to enjoy the baseball parts without the health risks for the actual players (not to mention seeing footage of Babe Ruth hit a home run from an actual game)! So, yes, I certainly recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Kid Brother (1927) – Harold Lloyd

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bumping Into Broadway (1919)

(Available as an extra on the Speedy (1928) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 25 minutes, 51 seconds)

As a struggling playwright, the Boy (Harold Lloyd) helps pay his neighbor’s rent, instead of his own. Later, he follows her to a speakeasy, and tries to help her when the place is raided by the police. A lot of different stuff happens here, but Harold Lloyd is hilarious in everything! I know I particularly get a kick out of watching him evade the police at the speakeasy! It’s certainly a fun short, and one I don’t mind seeing every now and then!

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Sherlock Jr. (1924)

And we have another fun Buster Keaton movie! This time, it’s the classic 1924 silent comedy Sherlock Jr.

Buster Keaton plays a projectionist in a local movie theatre, who is studying to become a detective. He becomes engaged to his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire), but his rival, known as the Sheik (Ward Crane) steals her father’s watch and pawns it to buy her some candy. The Sheik plants the pawn ticket on the projectionist, and when it is discovered, the engagement is broken. The projectionist tries to shadow the Sheik, but fails to discover anything. Dejected, he returns to the movie theatre, where he falls asleep during a movie. In his dreams, the projectionist walks right into the movie, becoming Sherlock Jr. As he faces a similar case, here he is more successful at solving the case and escaping the bad guys.

Sherlock Jr. was Buster Keaton’s third movie, following Three Ages (1923) and Our Hospitality (1923). After about three audience previews, he had the movie whittled down to a length of about forty-five minutes. Despite its relatively short length, I will very much admit to having enjoyed this one a lot! There were several sequences that I really got a kick out of.

One of those moments was the beginning of the dream. With Buster’s character actually walking up to and jumping into the action onscreen, it was quite amusing! Especially with the scenery changing while Buster stayed in the same spot! To me, that was quite impressive (and hilarious!), especially considering how seamless the scenery changes were. Nowadays, you know they would have used CGI to do it, but the actual precision with which they did it for this movie just leaves me astounded!

Then the movie quickly follows that up with the arrival of Sherlock Jr. Before he arrives, we see the two villains trying to plot his demise, using either a chair with an axe waiting to fall, or an exploding billiards ball. Of course, the great detective never quite sits on the chair, and observes the two villains from a mirror as they try to signal to each other about the ball. And then we are treated to a bunch of trick shots that keep missing the exploding ball (with the two villains quickly running out of the room). Just fun stuff!

And I could easily get into the final chase sequence with Buster on a motorcycle, but it really needs to be seen to be believed! And there are easily any number of other moments, both small and large, that were memorable for me. This is easily one of Buster’s best movies, and one I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with The Navigator (1924) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 2.” My own opinion is that the movie looks fantastic for this release! I’l admit, it’s the only way I’ve seen it so far, but, for my money, this release is worth it!

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Buster Keaton – The Navigator (1924)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Abusement Park (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: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto fight for Olive’s affections in an amusement park. Some fun to be had here, with the opening gags as Popeye and Bluto try to outdo each other, before Bluto takes off in a car with Olive and runs it on the roller coaster for the remainder of the short. A fun little short, and worth a few laughs, although I won’t deny I have had some more fun with some of the previous ones.

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

Now we have another go-round with Buster Keaton in his classic 1928 silent comedy Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Coming Up Shorts! with… House Tricks? (1946)

(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.

(length: 6 minutes, 59 seconds)

Popeye And Bluto help Olive build a house. Apparently a remake of an earlier Popeye short called “The House Builder Upper” (which I haven’t seen yet, so don’t ask), this one definitely still works. A lot of the fun is in watching Popeye and Bluto try to one-up each other as they each build half the house. And, of course, once Popeye is forced to eat his spinach, as always, he does everything well, showing up Bluto and winning the affections of Olive. I will admit, the fact that Popeye was voiced by Harry Welch instead of his usual voice actor, Jack Mercer, was fairly obvious, but not so different as to completely take me out of the fun. Definitely a short I enjoyed watching!

And Now For The Main Feature…

William “Steamboat Bill” Canfield, Sr. (Ernest Torrence), owner of the riverboat “Stonewall Jackson,” is facing competition from his rival J. J. King (Tom McGuire) with his new riverboat, the “King.” Bill receives a telegram stating that his son, William Canfield, Jr. (Buster Keaton), whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby, is coming to visit him. Anticipating a big, strong man like himself, he is disappointed to see that his son is much smaller, sporting a small mustache and carrying a ukulele. The father tries to buy his son a new wardrobe better fitting for work on a steamboat. While this is happening, Jr. runs into King’s daughter, Kitty King (Marion Byron), whom Jr. knew from Boston (and liked). Of course, their fathers are less than thrilled, and try to keep them apart. When the Stonewall Jackson riverboat is condemned, Bill gets into a fight with King and is subsequently arrested. Jr. tries (and fails) to get his father out. Then a big cyclone hits, forcing Jr. to do what he can to save everyone.

After all the success he had been enjoying, rising through shorts under Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle before going solo and then making his own feature films, Buster Keaton closed out his run of independent movies with Steamboat Bill, Jr. After The General had failed at the box office, Buster was given slightly less control on his films, being assigned a director on College (1927) as well as a production supervisor to help keep the costs in check. While he was still stuck with another director for Steamboat Bill, Jr., at least this time it turned out to be a good friend of his, Chuck Reisner. Chuck was the one who suggested Buster should play the son of a steamboat pilot, and the two of them co-directed the movie. They did have to make some changes, as they had originally planned to have the end take place during a flood, but after some actual floods on the Mississippi River about that time, it was felt that would be in bad taste and they changed it to a cyclone. Sadly, after this movie, Buster Keaton’s longtime producer Joseph Schenck had become president of United Artists, and devoted his full energies towards that, and no longer financed Buster’s production company. So, Buster soon signed with MGM, but soon found out they had no real idea how to handle him, and forced him to go along with THEIR ideas instead of giving him his creative freedom, starting his downfall.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. is one of the few Buster Keaton silent movies I had seen before, and it is one I have very much enjoyed! It is a fun movie, and one I can certainly say worked from start to finish! So much of the early going gives us Buster’s character as a klutz in everything he tried to do, from learning how to run the steamboat, to his romance, to breaking his father out of jail. And yet, during the cyclone, he reverses all that, and becomes a hero to all! And that cyclone scene is so very impressive, from the buildings that come apart (including the one that falls on Buster and misses him as he goes through the window) to all the wind that threatens to stop him from moving to the tree that he holds onto. Honestly, this movie is a lot of fun, and one of his best, in my opinion! A VERY easy movie for me to recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with The General (1926) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 1.” This release includes a new restoration undertaken by Cohen. My own personal opinion is that this transfer looks fantastic, but I have also seen some experts say that it still has some issues. As I am far from an expert on the subject, I would certainly suggest seeking out other opinions, but, in between the price and the stellar transfer for The General, I still feel like this release is worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

College (1927) – Buster Keaton – In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The General (1926)

Now we have what is arguably Buster Keaton’s best-known movie, the 1926 comedy The General.

When the people of Marietta, Georgia hear about Fort Sumter being fired on, all the men in town go to enlist. One of the first in line is Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton). He is a train engineer for the General, and the men in charge of enlisting believe that he is more useful in that position. However, he isn’t told that, and his girlfriend, Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) and her family believe him to be a coward when they don’t see him enlisting (since he was one of the first in line and they were much farther back). About a year later, Union General Thatcher (Jim Farley) makes plans with one of his spies, Captain Anderson (Glen Cavender), to sabotage the Confederate railroads. With a small crew, they plan to steal the General and take it north, burning bridges along the way to help cut off the Southern supply lines. When the train stops to let everyone off for dinner, the Union soldiers take the train, along with Annabelle Lee, who was looking into her luggage. However, Johnnie Gray sees the train being stolen, and immediately takes off after it, finding any way he can to keep up with it (and keep them from burning bridges in the process). Once he gets into enemy territory, he goes into hiding, and ends up hiding in a house the spies are staying at. He learns of the Union army’s plans for a surprise attack, and tries to escape with Annabelle. They get on the General and take off, making their way back towards the Confederate army, with Union soldiers close behind them.

For this movie, Buster Keaton decided to borrow from history, making use of an actual event from the American Civil War. The story had been written as a memoir called The Great Locomotive Chase by Will Pittenger, one of the Union soldiers originally involved in the actual raid. Buster wanted things to be as faithful as possible, as he considered using the original train (then on display in Chattanooga) and the original locations, but the style of railways had long since been replaced, and the train was unavailable since the movie was being planned as a comedy. Still, he was able to make use of three antique trains for the movie, and they filmed it in Oregon, where some narrow-gauge railroads tracks still remained, and borrowed 500 members of the National Guard to portray both armies.

In reading about this movie, I saw that it was originally a flop, at least partly due to its huge budget. I admit, the movie itself was a slight shock to me, as it didn’t seem as much like a Buster Keaton comedy to me. I expected a bit different, and the laughs didn’t come as hard and fast for me as from some of his other films and shorts that I have seen. All that being said, however, I can see this movie being one of his greats. While he may not have done as many comedic pratfalls as I expected, most of Buster’s stunts in this movie were still impressive, whether sitting on the coupling rods as the train starts up, or all the jumping around he does on the moving train, or many others, I am still very much impressed with what he could do. While the movie may not have its fans nowadays since he plays a hero of the Confederacy, I still have to admire the courage and fortitude of one man trying to go after a train of enemy soldiers all by himself and coming out of it successfully. A truly wonderful movie, and one I would highly recommend anybody see if they get the chance!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 1.” Having been given a recent restoration, this movie now looks fantastic in this release, almost as if it had been filmed yesterday! Certainly makes this release well worth it to see this movie looking so great!

Film Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Battling Butler (1926) – Buster Keaton – College (1927)