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Blu-ray Review

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Buster Keaton
3 Films: Vol. 2
(The Navigator, Seven Chances, Battling Butler)


Starring: Buster Keaton
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £34.99
Certificate: U
Release Date: 30 March 2020

Eureka Entertainment release Buster Keaton: 3 Films - Vol. 2, a collection of essential films from one of the greats of cinema operating at the height of his powers, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series on Blu-ray from stunning new 4K restorations in a lavish limited edition (3000 copies) 3-disc hardbound boxed set...

Between 1920 and 1929, Buster Keaton created a peerless run of feature films that established him as “arguably the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies”. Collected here are three key films from that era; The Navigator (1924), Seven Chances (1925) and Battling Butler (1926).

As with the previous volume, it's pretty much pointless dissecting each movie as its unlikely that people will randomly part with £35 without realising already what the appeal of Keaton's style of movie making is all about. And if you know and love Keaton's work you'll have been eagerly awaiting this release for some time.

This three disc collection (which to be fair would probably have fitted onto one Blu-ray disc - although personally I'm glad Eureka give this boxset the lavish treatment it rightly deserves) contains the following movies and extras:

The Navigator (1924): Wealthy Rollo Treadway (Keaton) suddenly decides to propose to his neighbour across the street, Betsy O'Brien, and sends his servant to book passage for a honeymoon sea cruise to Honolulu. When Betsy rejects his sudden offer however, he decides to go on the trip anyway, boarding without delay that night. Because the pier number is partially covered, he ends up on the wrong ship, the Navigator, which Betsy's rich father has just sold to a small country at war...

The Navigator was pretty much a movie based around the fact that the production company were given the unique opportunity to film aboard a derelict ship. The vessel is certainly a character in the film, with Keaton filming all over it, exploring every nook and cranny for original gags. There's one gag, sadly cut from the original movie, that was included in early prints of the film, but cut after the audiences didn't engage with it. This scene had Keaton, underwater, attaching a starfish to his chest and then directing fish like a traffic cop. It's a shame that this wasn't inserted back into the movie, or included as an extra, as it's a joke that would have aged quite well.

It's reported that Keaton was unhappy with the response to Sherlock Jr., and endeavoured to make his next movie more exciting and hopefully more commercially successful. The end result, The Navigator, ended up being the biggest hit of his career.

Extras include: Boats, Brides and Boxers (34 min, 11 sec look at all of the movies in this collection. It also explores Keaton's life as well ongoing themes in his movies); Of Buster, Boats, Other Sea Craft and Working on The Navigator (9 min, 01 sec); Trailer (1 min); and an audio commentary by silent film historians Robert Arkus and Yair Solan.

Seven Chances (1925): Jimmy Shannon (Keaton) learns he is to inherit seven million dollars, but the money comes with a catch. He can only claim the inheritance if he is married by 7pm on his 27th birthday, which just so happens to be the same day he learns of his predicament. What follows is an increasing series of escalating set-pieces as every woman within distance comes running to via for Shannon's affections. All the while there is one special lady that he's always hoped to marry, but has been too shy to admit his feelings...

Unlike The Navigator, which relied on set pieces and lavish gags, Seven Chances's comedy comes from Keaton's interaction with others, most notably batting away the strong advances of women who are keen to get their hands on his money. The plot builds to an almost farcical conclusion, with Keaton been pursued by hundreds of women through the streets.

Extras: What no Spinach (19 min, 05 sec 1926 Harry Sweet movie that is strikingly similar to Seven Chances); Trailer (56 sec); and an audio commentary.

Battling Butler (1926): A rich, spoiled dandy (Keaton) pretends to be a champion boxer, "Battling Butler", to impress the family of the girl he loves. When the real Butler shows up, he attempts to humiliate the imposter by having him fight the "Alabama Murderer"...

Battling Butler's humour comes from Keaton's attempts to impress a girl he quite likes. What starts off as an accidental case of mistaken identity - Keaton's character has the same name as a top boxer - soon spirals out of control. The eventual conclusion sees Keaton's character facing off, in the ring, against a vicious boxer known as the "Alabama Murderer".

Extras: Irwin Allen Interview (6 min, 36 sec from 1945); Arthur Friedman Interview (31 min, 32 sec, recorded in 1956); Robert Franklin Interview (55 min, 35 sec from 1958); Herbert Feinstein Interview (47 min, 41 sec from 1960. Sadly this has rather poor sound quality); Studs Terkel Interview (37 min, 57 sec from 1960) and Trailer (46 sec).

The collection also comes with a 58 page booklet with several essays, which give a little more background information on the movies as well as insight into Keaton's life. For Keaton fans this is an essential purchase. The movies have never looked so good and there are enough extras to keep you entertained.


Darren Rea

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