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Buster Keaton - Short Films Collection: 1920 - 1923 - Blu-ray Review

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High Sign - Buster Keaton

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5 Stars

Before making some of the finest films of the Silent Era, Buster Keaton (under the financial guidance of Joseph M. Schenck) made nineteen two-reelers that would define his well-known persona as “The Great Stone Face” comedian.  Keaton was already established as a reliable name from his partnership with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, but had yet to “make it” as a solo artist.  Metro Pictures would - financially - make that happen. Keaton’s inventiveness would do the rest.

Kino International continues their efforts to get Keaton on HD with this three-disc set which celebrates the foundation of Keaton’s wit and stone-like expression through some of the most inventive two-reelers ever commissioned. The genius of the artist at work shines through each of the nineteen films and shows just how serious Keaton was about his making the masses laugh their asses off.

Beginning in 1920, the set opens with The “High Sign”, a film that puts Keaton’s now-familiar alienated modern man persona firmly on display. Here we see a man who fakes his gunfighting skills so well that both local mobsters and a wanted man seek his employment. More slapstick and less surreal than what would come later, the film’s main set piece is a two story house divided into fourths so that one single camera can capture Keaton’s many escapes. While the film was initially shelved by Keaton and not released until 1922, The “High Sign” has certainly become a fan favorite over the years.

Other highlights of the set include 1922’s hysterical Cops, a film that plays up the brainy irony that Keaton was known for in the construction of his gags. It’s a great example of just how satisfying silent comedies can be – especially the two-reelers – and makes Keaton out to be the National Treasure he should be remembered as. In Cops, Keaton simply cannot win.  His nice guy routine goes awry when he accidentally hurls a bomb into a parade of police offers and ends up being chased through L.A. throughout the feature by them.  Full of great escapes and perfect Looney Tunes (before there were Looney Tunes mind you) moments, Cops is both culturally and aesthetically important.

The set includes the following short films: The “High Sign”, One Week, Convict 13, The Scarecrow, Neighbors, The Haunted House, Hard Luck, The Goat, The Play House, The Boat, The Paleface, Cops, My Wife’s Relations, The Blacksmith, The Frozen North, Day Dreams, The Electric House, The Balloonatic, and The Love Nest.  Mined and mastered from the best possible archival prints around, the nineteen films make for a lovely jaunt back in time when comedy was something more than unfunny recycled Three Stooges routines.

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{2jtab: Film Details}

Buster Keaton - Short Films Collection 1920-1923 Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Buster Keaton; Edward F. Kline;
Writer
: Buster Keaton; Jefffrey Vance; Edward F. Kline
Cast:
Virginia Fox, Joe Roberts; Edward F. Kline;
Genre
: Classics | Shorts | Comedy
Tagline:
Buster Keaton Short Films 1920-1923
Memorable Movie Quote: "Men, I am now your captain. I will raise your pay and get you an insurance policy!"
Distributor:
Kino International
Release Date:
1920-1923
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 12, 2011

Synopsis: For the first time ever, Kino International proudly presents a box set of all of Buster Keaton's classic silent short films in one collection. All films have been digital remastered in high definition and include all new extras.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Scarecrow - Buster Keaton

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 12, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: LPCM 2.0
Discs:
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (3 BDs)

Presented in 1080p high definition, all of the films (and even their color tints) have been restored lovingly by Kino. The HD upgrade and preservation is worth the cost of the set alone. Yes, the scratches on the prints are still there but keep in mind these prints were never kept in the most amazing of conditions. You think Keaton ever thought people in this day and age would still be watching his movies? The detail is fine and, at times, revolutionary in what it shows. Grain is good and constant throughout and the black-and-white images are neither blotchy nor inky. Audio is provided by piano scores (mostly) performed by Ben Model and/or Robert Israel.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are visual essays for each film. Their narration is the only commentary provided by the set, but there is a wealth of archival footage and information to be digested by each and every visual essay.

Special Features:

It is obvious Kino International takes great pride in these Silent Era releases.  Along with the nineteen visual essays, there are 2 promo featurettes with appearances from other silent comedians.  There is also a look at Kino’s upcoming Lost Keaton set.  There is also a booklet written by Jeffery Vance that goes further into detail about the making of these films and Buster Keaton.  Housed inside a thick slip-cover with new cover art, the three-disc set is a must own for fans of the Keaton, Kino, and the Silent Era of filmmaking.

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