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College (1927) - Blu-ray Review

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College - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

In just over an hour, silent comedian Buster Keaton achieves more laughs in College than most comedians do in their entire career.  His mastery of physical comedy is in its peak form and the short, made immediately following his now certified classic The General, benefits from it.  Of course, United Artists – still reeling from the final production totals of and box office disappointment of The General – certainly didn’t feel too generous about giving Keaton much of a budget.  Still, Keaton turns in a mighty fine film and, not able to understand the significance of his previous effort, does so without bitterness.

Perhaps we were feeling our oats as a society and perhaps it was just the youthfulness of the modern era, but the collegiate life was a staple subject in our 1920’s entertainment.   Harold Lloyd's The Freshman in 1925 can claim responsibility for the trend but perhaps more credit can and should be extended to the rising culture of flappers, jazz, and free-flowing spirits in the years before the Stock Market crash.  Keaton might have been an original but that’s not to say he wasn’t susceptible to trends.  College is proof of that.  It’s what he did with the trend, though, that makes us still remember it.

For College, Keaton plays Ronald, the high school valedictorian, who – using his graduation speech as a platform - goes on an anti-athletics warpath which puts him on the outs with potential girlfriend Mary (Anne Cornwall).  She prefers the jocks to the nerds and Keaton, competing with bad guy Jeff (Harold Goodwin) for her affection, must prove his competitive spirit at Clayton College.  He won’t learn through actual practice, though.  Being the egghead that he is, Ronald has every book on every sport be it baseball, football and whatever.  He will win her love and her respect through reading and then doing…but, boy, does he ever suck at it.

Hilarity ensues with every sport he attempts.  As I suggested earlier, College certainly showcases Keaton’s physical talents by making audiences believe that he actually is a derp on the field.  Comedy is indeed a form of art in Keaton’s capable hands and, from baseball to track and field, nothing is sacred.  The choreography and slapstick moments are finely patterned and played for riotous laughter.  He succeeds most every time in allowing his clumsiness to be his best foil.  The klutzy athleticism on display is graceful but Keaton is able to show – with style and skill – just how unbelievably clumsy Ronald can be…whether he knows the rules or not.

Ultimately, College – due to its budget and limited storyline – feels more like a series of gags than a well-rounded narrative; however, its crisis-centered finale – which displays Keaton’s true spirit – is truly inspired.  From soda jerk black-face gags to many physical stunts, College is an alma mater worthy of your loyalty.

DAMFINO indeed, Buster.

{2jtab: Film Details}

College - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA
Runtime: 67 mins.
Director
: James W. Horne
Writer: Carl Harbaugh, Bryan Foy
Cast: Buster Keaton; Flora Bramley; Harold Goodwin; Snitz Edwards; Carl Harbaugh; Sam Crawford
Genre
: Silent | Classic
Tagline:
You'll graduate with a perpetual smile!
Memorable Movie Quote:
Distributor:
Kino Video
Official Site:
Theatrical Release Date:
November, 1927
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 5, 2013

Synopsis: To reconcile with his girlfriend, a bookish college student tries to become an athlete.

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College - 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 5, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.35:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Region A

For an 85-year-old 35mm print, College looks damfino.  Kino-Lorber’s newly mastered 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is a visual treat and matches the quality of the other releases in the Keaton collection.  White flecks and other debris frequently pepper the frame, wear 'n tear lines sometimes streak down the image, brightness flickers, and you'll notice the occasional bout of telecine wobble. For a film of this vintage, however, all of that is excusable, if not expected. And you'll hardly notice, because the film's newfound level of clarity and presence is simply fantastic. The image is, in general, exceptionally detailed and sharp, easily besting prior home video releases of the film.  Contrast is strong but rarely overblown, and black levels are dark and substantial. The film's grain structure is exceptionally fine.  A vintage organ arrangement by the late John Muri is presented here in uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 stereo.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Film historian Rob Farr, founder of the Slapsticon Film Festival, delivers a thoughtful overview of the film from a number of different production angles.  This is a good and insightful listen.

Special Features:

The disc is rounded out with a decent collection of shorts.  Author John Bengston takes Keaton fans on a tour of the locations College used in the first featurette.  The second (and longer) featurette was produced in 1966 for the CSA of Ontario about construction safety.  This commercial spot – featuring Keaton with his porkpie hat – is the last filmed performance of his life.

  • Tour of Filming Locations (10 min)
  • "The Scribe" (30 min)

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