I love Buster Keaton–nearly 100 years on, his movies are still some of the most amazing, hilarious, creative, and wild ones out there.
Earlier this year, I showed my family his little masterpiece Sherlock Jr. At only 45 minutes, it didn’t strain anyone’s attention span, nor did the lack of dialogue confuse even the youngest kids.
The jokes, the stunts, and a very early bit of meta-commentary on film itself make this one of my favorite movies. The kids, too, have asked to see it again since then. Enjoy!
Here’s a great analysis of Keaton’s work and legacy:
Although I didn’t like this quite as much as The General and The Cameraman, I did think this movie had some of his best physical comedy. The athleticism evident here is just astounding–some of those pratfalls rise to the level of elegant acrobatics! And his stunt of quickly descending four stories of a ship–and then scrambling back up!–is simply breathtaking (starts at around 1:09 in the second video). It’s easy to see why Jackie Chan said his career was inspired by Keaton.
A project I’m doing this year has required me to watch a lot of old silent movies. I’ve seen a few Charlie Chaplin movies, as well as two D.W. Griffith epics, and a few others. They’ve all been worthwhile, but there’s no problem picking the one I’ve most enjoyed.
Buster Keaton’s 1927 film The General is a silent film in black and white, and is one of the funniest, most action-packed movies I’ve ever seen. I loved every minute of it. It’s brilliantly fun.
The majority of the film takes place while one train chases another, and then the hunter from the first half becomes the hunted later on. Buster Keaton performs almost constant slapstick, always with a quiet, deadpan demeanor, and performs more dangerous stunts than I could count. Since there are no stuntmen or special effects to speak of, I actually had to remind myself that the many stunning visuals in the film were achieved by actually doing them on camera. Keaton could have died multiple times while pulling off these stunts and jokes. (Jackie Chan has always said that Buster Keaton was a huge inspiration in his own career.)
This version on YouTube (the movie’s in the public domain) has a jazz soundtrack added, from a German band which apparently often performed along with this film (you know, like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon). It perfectly complements the action. You’re in for a real treat.