Home Video

Our Hospitality (1923) - Blu-ray Review

{2jtab: Movie Review}

Our Hospitality - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

Borrowing a riff from Harold Lloyd’s Grandma’s Boy, Buster Keaton perfects the lovable loser’s battle for the girl – a plot line that is still in play in most comedies today - in this 1923 classic from the silent era of filmmaking.  Our Hospitality might have been Keaton’s first foray into feature-length movies with one narrative, but its scripted genius shows off a true talent of cinema and not a newbie to the medium of feature-length narrative construction.

Kept blissfully unaware of a longstanding feud between his family and the Canfields, Willie McKay (Keaton) learns of his inheritance upon the death of his father.  He fantasies about inheriting a Southern Gothic-tinged mansion, yet his Aunt informs him of the feud so that he will know that not everyone will be kind to him on his journey back to where he was born – especially not the Canfields.  McKay climbs aboard an Iron Horse named ‘Rocket’ and sits next to Virginia (Natalie Talmadge).  The two “enjoy” a rather hysterical trek – full of some wonderful passenger train gags - across New Jersey and become interested in each other.  Little does the naive McKay realize that Virginia’s last name is … Canfield.

Upon their arrival, she invites him over to dinner.  Her father Joseph (Joe Roberts) allows the young McKay to enter his home, yet has to calm his two sons, hellbent on killing the oblivious McKay, with the politeness of their hospitality.  Everyone agrees.  McKay can not be killed while under their roof – only upon his exit…which, once McKay understands this, offers for some genuinely hysterical moments of cinematic history.

There’s no secret that the Canfield and McKay grudge that drives the story is based off of the Hatfield and McCoy feud of our nation’s history.  Yet, Keaton changed the location and the year of his feud so that he could feature an early locomotive and some other modern technologies (such as the bicycle) with which to draw laughs and inspire gags from.  For contemporary audiences, everything works.  The bits on the train – moving the tracks because the donkey won’t move – are great moments that invite familiarity and fun for anyone used to travel via train.

One thing is for certain - as funny as Our Hospitality is – no discussion of the film has any merit if it doesn’t mention the film’s dramatic and harrowing opening.  A risky five minutes of pure drama that certainly doesn’t pave the way for the comedic gold that follows.  In fact, that opening – full of tension and gunplay and an ingenious use of color plates – would be something more aligned to D.W. Griffith territory, but Keaton, who co-directed the film with John G. Blystone, uses the drama to provide the rationale in Young McKay’s thinking of sending her son to be raised elsewhere.  It’s a brilliantly striking opening for such a comedic film.

Our Hospitality is filled with everything Keaton would later perfect in his feature-length comedies: trains, adventurous set-pieces, and impressive locale (here being the Tuskegee River), but that doesn’t diminish its quality.  The hair-raising stunts are still there and so are the hysterical gags.  Driven by a hungry blood feud between two families that just won’t be quenched, Our Hospitality provides ageless satire at its finest.

 

{2jtab: Film Info}

Our Hospitality - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title not rated by the MPAA.
Director
: John G. Blystone, Buster Keaton
Writer: Jean C. Havez & Clyde Bruckman & Joseph A. Mitchell   
Cast:
Ralph Bushman; Craig Ward; Monte Collins; Joe Keaton; Kitty Bradbury
Genre: Comedy | Family | Classic
Tagline:
Our Hospitality
Memorable Movie Quote: ""
Distributor:
Metro Pictures Corporation (theatrical); Kino International (Blu-ray)
Release Date:
November 19, 1923
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 22, 2011

Synopsis: Our Hospitality is a boisterous satire of family feuds and Southern codes of honor. In 1831, Keaton leaves his home in New York to take charge of his family mansion down South. En route, Keaton befriends pretty Natalie Talmadge (Keaton's real-life wife at the time), who invites him to dine at her family home. Upon meeting Talmadge's father and brothers, Keaton learns that he is the last surviving member of a family with whom Talmadge's kin have been feuding for over 20 years. The brothers are all for killing Keaton on the spot, but Talmadge's father (Joe Roberts) insists that the rules of hospitality be observed: so long as Keaton is a guest in the house, he will not be harmed. Thus, Keaton spends the next few reels alternately planning to sneak out of the mansion without being noticed, and contriving to remain within its walls as long as possible.

 

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Our Hospitality - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
4 stars
 
5 Stars
     
Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 22, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: LPCM 2.0; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

There’s no doubt this is the finest the movie has ever looked.  Restored by Kino International – who also released Keaton’s The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., and Sherlock Jr./Three Ages – this 1080i transfer is a glorious slice of HD pie.  The film grain is intact, giving depth to the actor’s faces (so much so that Keaton’s pores can be seen in a few frames) and the intricacies of the exterior set pieces.  Yes, there are vertical scratches from time to time, but – with a film this old – that is to be expected, yet the sepia tone is a night touch.  Nothing is overblown or outrageous in the restoration; another quality job from Kino.  The main soundtrack is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix of Carl Davis’s 1984 score, but there are other options for your listening preferences.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

As per Kino’s other releases, there is a great informative track accompanied by some behind-the-scenes visuals documenting the making of the film.  There is also a different cut of the film, trimmed by 15 minutes or so, and is rumored to be Keaton’s working print of the picture.  It can be viewed with an introduction provided by Patricia Eliot Tobias, editor of The Keaton Chronicle.

The complete breakdown of supplemental material is as follows:

  • Making Comedy Beautiful (26 min)
  • Hospitality (55 min)
  • The Iron Mule (19 min)
  • 32 Photographic Gallery

{2jtab: Trailer}


 

{/2jtabs}

 

Movie Reviews

Our Tweets

 

You are here: Home Home Video Our Hospitality (1923) - Blu-ray Review
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Google+
Letterboxd
Find us on Rotten Tomatoes