THE GENERAL – Starring Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender. Directed by Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman. (1926/79 min).
STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. - Starring Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron, Tom McGuire. Directed by Buster Keaton & Charles Reisner. (1928/71 min).
ON BLU-RAY FROM COHEN MEDIA GROUP
Review by Mr. Paws😸
In a recent review of Cohen Media Group’s The Great Buster: A Celebration, I briefly mentioned the only problem with that terrific documentary was it left the viewer wanting more. Well, “more” has finally arrived with The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 1, which features masterful 4K restorations of two of his most iconic films.
Did Keaton invent the action-comedy? Quite possibly. One thing is certain...1926’s The General is a near-perfect early example and arguably his best film. Set during the Civil War, it’s essentially one long locomotive chase with Keaton as its comic centerpiece. Not only is it a remarkable physical performance, his dour reactions to the surrounding mayhem are just as funny today as they were in the 20s. Some of the action set-pieces are still jaw-dropping, especially when we keep in-mind Keaton did all of his own stunts and no special effects were involved, not even during the spectacular climactic train crash. The General is silent filmmaking at its absolute best and remains massively entertaining today (once you get past the Confederate Army portrayed as the good guys).
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Though it doesn’t quite reach the comic heights of The General, the decidedly more restrained Steamboat Bill, Jr. is another charmer. As the nebbish William Canfield Jr., Keaton’s considerable comic gifts are still here in abundance. But this time, other actors have their share of amusing moments, especially Ernest Torrence as William’s burly, beleaguered father. While the film includes Keaton’s most iconic gag (when a house’s facade falls around him), the hat shop scene remains my personal favorite. A subtle example of flawless comic timing, Keaton and Torrence play it perfectly. At the same time, what we learn about their characters in this seemingly inconsequential scene is quite revealing.
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These films have been released individually on Blu-ray before by another company, but not having seen them, I can’t compare the audio or video quality. This set is light on bonus features, but the 4K restoration is stunning and both films feature the wonderful orchestrated scores Carl Davis composed in the 80s. The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 1 is a must own for action fans, lovers of classic comedy and, of course, any self-respecting cinephile.
FEATURETTES - “Reflections on The General”; “Buster Keaton: The Luminary” (both are short featurettes with interviews from some of the same people who contributed to The Great Buster: A Celebration, including Quentin Tarantino, Leonard Maltin and Bill Hader).
RESTORATION TRAILERS FOR EACH FILM
MEE-OW! LIKE BEING TURNED LOOSE IN A BIRD SANCTUARY.