Keaton Plus [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Jail Bait
Hard Luck
The plucky little guy that comedian Buster Keaton portrayed throughout most of his two-reel silents is just about out of pluck here. After being fired by his boss and jilted by his girlfriend, there seems to be nothing left but to end it all. And even that won't go right -- try as he might nothing works (and hilariously so). Throwing himself in front of a streetcar fails. He lamely tries to hang himself. The "poison" he swallows is someone's bootleg liquor stash. Desperately he throws himself in front of an oncoming pair of headlights, but it's not a car, it's two motorcycles that navigate easily around him. Suicide is forgotten when he somehow gets involved with a scientific search for an armadillo, which leads him to a country club. Notorious bandit Lizard Lip Luke (Joe Roberts) terrorizes the club's patrons, but Buster saves the day and the girl (Virginia Fox). "Now no one can stand in the way of our getting married!" he tells the young lady. "Except my husband over there," she retorts. Out of luck once again, Buster dons a swim suit, climbs up to the highest diving platform and jumps. Missing the pool completely, he goes through the tile and vanishes. "Years later" reads the title card, and we see the country club pool, overrun by weeds from misuse. The hole is still there, though, and Buster promptly emerges, a Chinese wife and two Chinese-American kids in tow. Out of all the two-reelers he made, Keaton said that Hard Luck was his favorite, and he claimed that performing the high dive was the greatest thrill of his life. Unfortunately, the end of Hard Luck has deteriorated with time (although the rest of the film is mostly intact), and apparently only fragments of it exist. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Allez Oop
The Love Nest
When Buster (Buster Keaton) is spurned by his sweetheart, he decides to forget by sailing around the world. He posts a letter to his girl, sealing it with his tears, and heads out to sea in a ramshackle little boat he's named "Cupid." Weeks later, he encounters a whaling ship called "The Love Nest" -- an ironic name, considering the captain (the very formidable Joe Roberts) is extremely mean-spirited and in the habit of throwing men overboard for the smallest infraction. When the steward spills the Captain's coffee and receives the ultimate penalty, Buster is given his job. Buster's seafaring talents, of course, leave much to be desired -- for example, when he hears the order, "All hands on deck!" he takes it literally and, yes, puts his hand on the deck. Amazingly, Buster goes for quite a while before he incurs the Captain's fatal ire. He outfoxes his tormentor, sinks the ship and takes off on a lifeboat. But fate isn't done with him yet -- he winds up fishing in a Naval target practice zone. But just as the target he's sitting on explodes, he wakes up, back on the "Cupid" -- it was all a dream. But Buster's relief is only temporary, as he discovers that he has no food or water. Then he sees someone swimming past him ... his boat, luckily, is still tied to the port. This was Keaton's final two-reel short; by the time it was released in March 1923, he was already working on his first feature, The Three Ages. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Daydreams
Buster Keaton is a boy who wants to marry his sweetheart (a pre-stardom Renee Adoree). But her practical father (Joe Keaton -- in real life, Buster's father) wants to know, "How will you support her?" Buster swears he will go to the city to make good, adding, "If I am not a success I'll come back and shoot myself." The father generously offers to loan him his gun, should that come to pass. And so Buster is off, writing letters home of his adventures. His girl reads that he is working at a hospital. She imagines him as a master surgeon. In reality, he is a veterinary assistant. Then he writes that he is cleaning up on wall street. But he not the tycoon that his girl believes he is -- as a sanitary engineer, Buster is literally "cleaning up." Next he is making his theatrical debut. His girl pictures him on stage as Hamlet. Instead, Buster is actually an extra who is so disruptive that the star haughtily walks off the show. He ends up being chased by the town's police force (in scenes similar in tone to Keaton's two-reeler, Cops, released six months earlier). Finally, a bruised and battered Buster is delivered, via mail, back home to his girl and her father. Obligingly, the father hands the boy a gun, and he and his daughter go into another room while he does the job. But Buster can't even do this right -- he misses. Several fragments of Daydreams are missing and replaced by stills shot while it was being filmed. But it is lucky that the two-reeler exists at all -- the only known copy of it was found in Czechoslovakia. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Haunted House
While this isn't one of Buster Keaton's best two-reelers, it has some undeniably classic moments. Keaton plays a young bank teller who isn't immune to a pretty girl begging him for an early withdrawal. Sighing, he goes to the safe's clock and turns the hand an hour ahead so the door will spring open. Behind the scenes, there is scheming afoot; the cashier (big Joe Roberts) is part of a ring of counterfeiters who have fixed up a mansion to appear haunted in order to throw off the police. Their finest trick among the trap doors and secret passageways is a staircase that becomes a flat ramp when a cord is pulled, causing anyone climbing it to slide to the bottom. Back at the bank, Keaton has some trouble with a bottle of glue that causes all the money he touches to stick to him. This is also trouble for a group of bank robbers who try to hold him up. To throw the cops off his scent once again, the cashier makes it appear that Buster is the robber, and he has to run away. Keaton eventually makes his way over to the mansion, where the staircase proves to be his nemesis. Nevertheless, he manages to capture the counterfeiters, although he is knocked cold in the process. While he is unconscious and being held tenderly by the bank president's daughter (the small but always aristocratic Virginia Fox), he has a dream: He is climbing the long steps to heaven where he faces Saint Peter. Keaton is refused admission, and the saint pulls a cord. The steps flatten out and Buster slides down until he reaches hell. Fortunately, he wakes up to find himself face to face with the girl, not the devil. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

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