When I went off to college, I had yet to see a Buster Keaton movie, though I was already a huge Charlie Chaplin fan. A hallmate of mine found this out and we made arrangements to see The General (1927) at the library. We arrived and discovered that we needed to squeeze into a tiny viewing booth. There were headphones, but the film -- shown, I think, on a 16mm print -- did not have any soundtrack, so we discarded the headphones. Goodness only knows if it was shown at the correct speed; I tend to doubt it. But even under those lowly conditions, I remember being as blown away as if I were sitting in a huge, air-conditioned movie house watching a state-of-the-art summer blockbuster.

Now Kino Video has released two new Keaton titles. One is a remastered DVD and Blu-Ray of Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), and the other is Lost Keaton, a DVD with sixteen short films from the 1930s. Of the four great Silent Clowns, which included Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon, Keaton was perhaps the best director. He seemed to have an innate understanding of the possibilities of the medium, including its rhythms and spaces. He grasped how a lone figure, juxtaposed against a huge train or a huge, bizarre house, or a huge ship, could result in untold comic possibilities. He was also perhaps the unluckiest of the four in terms of his career.
categories Cinematical