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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Buster Keaton
3 Films: Vol. 3
(Our Hospitality, Go West!, College)


Starring: Buster Keaton
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £34.99
Certificate: U
Release Date: 24 August 2020

Eureka Entertainment release Buster Keaton: 3 Films - Vol. 3, the latest collection of essential films from one of the greats of cinema operating at the height of his powers. The collection is released 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 further films from that era; Our Hospitality (1923), Go West (1925) and College (1927). The Masters of Cinema Series presents all three films from brand new restorations in their UK debuts on Blu-ray.

Our Hospitality (1923 - dir. Buster Keaton & John G. Blystone): Often cited as one of his most significant films - as well as one of his funniest - 1923’s Our Hospitality is Keaton's take on the notorious feud between the Hatfield and McCoy clans (here renamed the Canfields and the McKays). Keaton is luckless William McKay, who must journey down South to view his lacklustre inheritance, only to be seduced along the way by one of the Canfields, Virginia, who lures him to her family's house so that the men of the clan can shoot him down. But William knows that the Canfield men won't kill him as long as he's in their house, so he endeavours to stay put there, against all obstacles...

With its attention to 19th-century period detail and emphasis on integrating the gags into the storyline, Our Hospitality was not just a breakthrough in Keaton's career, but it was also noted even during its release as an advancement in the medium, with Variety proclaiming, "It marks a step forward in the production of picture comedies."

Extras include an audio commentary by silent film historian Rob Farr. It was interesting to hear Farr's engaging input, especially the nugget that legendary animated filmmaker and cartoonist Chuck Jones (most famous for his work on Warner Bros. Looney Tunes shorts) was a huge fan of Keaton and it's believed that a lot of the visual styling of the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons were inspired by this movie in particular. That's also interesting as Keaton himself (as reported elsewhere on this collection) disliked cartoon comedy and in The Railrodder insisted that all of the situations had to be at least feasibly possible in the real world.

Additional extras include: Hospitality (50 min, 09 sec early workprint version of Our Hospitality, which is a little shorter. It can be played with an optional audio commentary with film historian Polly Rose. Some claim that this is Keaton's own rough cut of the movie); Making Comedy Beautiful (26 min, 08 sec video by Patricia Eliot Tobias which explores some of the background to the film and setting); and Stills Gallery.

Go West (1925 - dir. Buster Keaton): Keaton is at his most stone-faced as the memorably named "Friendless" in Go West, an irresistible blend of deadpan darkness and spectacular comic set-pieces. Friendless abandons city life to ride the rails to an Arizona ranch, where his ineptitude at almost everything only makes his nickname even more accurate. But when his one beloved companion, a cow named Brown Eyes, seems to be headed to a slaughterhouse fate, Friendless intervenes, and the resulting cattle stampede through the streets of Los Angeles is one of Keaton's most understandably famous and acclaimed sequences...

From a 2K restoration, Go West is a romantic comedy with an usual romantic leading lady. Keaton rushes to save the life of his beloved companion, a cow named Brown Eyes.

Extras include an audio commentary by silent film historians Joel Goss and Bruce Lawton; A Window on Keaton (28 min, 20 sec video essay by David Cairns, which looks at Keaton's early life and career); Go West - Filming Locations (16 min, 27 sec video essay by John Bengtson that looks at now and then photos of some of the movie's locations); Go West (1923) (11 min, 58 sec comedy short using animals in the main roles. Directed by Len Powers and produced by Hal Roach); and a Stills Gallery.

College (1927 - dir. James W. Horne & Buster Keaton) Keaton follows up The General with a higher education comedy that seems to take a cue from Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925). Keaton is bookworm Ronald, whose high school girl Mary ditches him for someone with the athletic prowess that Ronald lacks. Determined to win her back, Ronald enters college with an eye on sports, but two left feet...

From a 4K restoration, College has a clever set up of constant failure only to see Keaton mastering everything when he races to save the girl. The movie comes with a blackface warning as Keaton "blacks up". To be fair, it's not for a cheap gag. Here he's desperate to get a job and becoming a black waiter is one of his few options.

Extras include: Silent Echoes (9 min, 55 sec video essay by John Bengtson which again looks at now and then filming locations); The Railrodder (1965 movie which was one of Keaton's last movies. This alone is worth the price of the Blu-ray collection. Even in his late 60s Keaton was still performing all of his own stunts). The Railrodder also has an optional audio commentary with director Gerald Potterton and cameraman David DeVolpi); Buster Keaton Rides Again (1965 documentary on the making of The Railrodder with optional audio Q&A session) and two stills galleries, one for College and one for The Railrodder.

Another wonderful collection of three of Keaton's most endearing movies.


Darren Rea

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