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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Buster Keaton
The Complete Short Films 1917-1923


Starring: Buster Keaton and Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £39.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 18 July 2016

Capturing Keaton’s first steps in front of a camera this box set charts his early association with ex-Keystone Kop Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle through to starring in, headlining, and directing his own box office smash hits. Using Chaplin’s old Hollywood studios in 1920, Keaton’s sophisticated technical inventiveness coupled with his haunted-yet-handsome ‘Stone Face’ persona, created a succession of the most timeless, classic comedy shorts ever realised. This four disc collection contains thirty-two films - with a running time of over 740 minutes...

Buster Keaton: The Complete Short Films 1917-1923 showcases Keaton's short films from early in his career, starting with his acting debut, 1917's The Butcher Boy.

Given the age of the prints the restoration process is a mini miracle. One of the extras in this collection briefly explains how different prints of the same film were used, allowing the restorers to replace missing frames from the best prints with substandard copies, and then digitally improving the worn film. I always assumed the cuts and jumps in these films were due to the camera operator not cranking the film at a consistent speed, or when two different takes were spliced together, but it would appear that over time frames have been lost, or worn out. These restorations finally give us a feel for how the original print would have appeared.

The collection features the following films over four discs:

The Butcher Boy (1917)
The Rough House (1917)
His Wedding Night (1917)
Oh, Doctor! (1917)
Conery Island (1917)
Out West (1918)
The Bell Boy (1918)
Moonshine (1918)
Good Night Nurse (1918)
The Cook (1918)
Backstage (1919)
The Hayseed (1919)
The Garage (1919)
The "High Sign" (1920/21)
One Week (1920)
Convict (1920)
The Scarecrow (1920)
Neighbors (1920)
The Haunted House (1921)
Hard Luck (1921)
The Goat (1921)
The Playhouse (1921)
The Boat (1921)
The Paleface (1922)
Cops (1922)
My Wife's Relations (1922)
The Blacksmith (1922)
The Frozen North (1922)
Daydreams (1922)
The Electric House (1922)
The Balloonatic (1923)
The Love Nest (1923)

Extras include: Coney Island Alternate Ending (45 sec - which is seen as a little racist today); The Restoration (6 min, 44 sec French feature with English subtitles which looks at how these movies were restored); Joseph Mcbride audio commentaries (for The 'High Sign'; One Week; Convict 13; The Playhouse; The Boat and Cops); That’s Some Buster (22 min, 39 sec feature which looks at Keaton's work); Life with Buster Keaton (2 min, 50 sec clip of Keaton in a 1950 TV series; Pierre Etaix (12 min, 13 sec interview in French with English subtitles); My Wife's Relations Alternative Ending (1 min, 53 sec); and Buster Keaton Party 1962 (23 min, 51 sec audio recording of Keaton at a party).

The accompanying booklet is also well detailed. There's over 180 pages which runs you through each film; the restoration; Keaton's memories; Keaton roundtable; the music; Keaton's Italian villa; and further reading suggestions.

For Keaton's fans, as well as film buffs, this is an essential purchase.


Nick Smithson

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