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Buster Keaton Collection (The Cameraman / Spite Marriage / Free & Easy)
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Considered by many the greatest of cinema's silent clowns, Buster Keaton was a consummate practitioner of physical comedy. Although labeled the "Great Stone Face," Keaton found tremendous eloquence in his deadpan style with the alert and expressive eyes, lithe acrobat's body and that air of grace described by critic James Agee as "a fine, still and dreamlike beauty." This TCM Archives 2-disc celebration of Keaton's art puts the spotlight on his MGM period. The Cameraman (1928), remastered with a new score by Arthur Barnow, and Spite Marriage (1929) are among Keaton's funniest silents, while Free and Easy (1930) is his first talkie. These films marked a peak in his popularity with audiences; however, Keaton resented the loss of artistic control he had enjoyed in his earlier movies and was on the brink of a major career decline that he blamed on studio interference. This watershed period in Keaton's life is the basis for film historian Kevin Brownlow's poignant new documentary So Funny It Hurts: Buster Keaton at MGM, completing a DVD collection which offers keen insight into what makes Keaton's unique style of comedy hilarious, moving and timeless.]]>
The Cameraman shows obvious and unfortunate signs of MGM's insistence that Keaton, long accustomed to improvising scenes, conform to prepared shooting scripts. But it is less stifling than the second feature (Keaton's last silent movie) in this set, the 1929 Spite Marriage, a slight farce about a pants-presser (Keaton) who borrows his customers' fine threads to attend the theatre every night. There he worships an actress (Dorothy Sebastian) so furious with her caddish lover and co-star (Edward Earle) that she asks Keaton to marry her. The predictable results are unworthy of a Keaton film, but he does shine in several hilarious sequences, such as a disastrous turn as a bit player in his soon-to-be-wife's stage dramas. Finally, 1930's Free and Easy, Keaton's talkie debut, is a garish MGM valentine to itself, trotting out celebrity actors and directors (Lionel Barrymore, Cecil B. DeMille, Fred Niblo) in a wooden story set on a movie lot. But while Keaton struggles with dialogue and a script that frequently sidelines him, he has many good moments causing havoc on film sets. --Tom Keogh
- Three Keaton films: The Cameraman, Spite Marriage Free and Easy
- New score by Arthur Barrow on The Cameraman
- Kevin Brownlow's all-new documentary So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton and MGM
- Photo montages from the two silent films
Top Customer Reviews
Now, Turner Classic Movies is an invaluable resource for anyone who loves or studies films. Using the MGM vault as their toy chest, and later adding libraries of other studios, they show a remarkable number of hard to find films that are not available on DVD or even video. In the last few years, MGM and Warner Bros. have begun releasing a large number of these films on DVD, using pristine prints, restoring films and creating a host of attractive extras. What a difference a decade makes.
Turner Classic Movies has released "The Buster Keaton Collection", a two disc set including "The Cameraman" (1928), "Spite Marriage" (1929) and "Free and Easy" (1930), Buster's first talkie. There is also a short documentary called "Buster Keaton: So Funny It Hurt" about his brief tenure at MGM. The documentary premiered on Turner Classic Movies.
Buster Keaton is one of my favorite film comedians, creating some of the funniest films I have ever seen. During much of his career, Keaton was his own boss.Read more ›
A reviewer at IMDB described Free and Easy as "MGM's first snuff film." I couldn't have put it better. Thanks to the documentary that came with this set, I already knew what MGM did to Keaton's career before I saw how they did it. The scene with Buster wearing puppet strings has to be the most vivid image from that entire film. I can't blame him for turning into an alcoholic, after making something like that. All I did was watch that that movie, and I needed a drink afterward.
I can't recommend this set highly enough. Even Free and Easy has its educational value. It shows you precisely what happens when creative individuals are turned over to business people who don't actually understand or care about what they're doing, as long as it makes money. Some things don't ever change.
The rating however should really be three and a half stars.
This set comes in a handsome pull apart case housing the two DVDs but I was disappointed to find no booklet/liner notes with details about these new releases,i.e.sources for the prints,restoration work,etc.
The Cameraman is the BEST thing about this set.The 90s release of it on VHS came in around 70 minutes and was a poor transfer.By comparison this new version comes in at about 75 minutes and is the most complete commercially released print so far.It has been re-released with a NEW score and not the original featured on the VHS version.I personally would have preferred the original score but the new one does have a certain charm and in the end does justice to the film.With the additional footage/title cards,its' improved and adjusted contrast and overall picture quality, it has heightened,at least to this reviewer,its' reputation and enjoyment as one of Keatons' best films.
The next film is Spite Marriage.Two versions were released originally of this film,one a silent and THIS one with sound effects and a musical score.It would have been very nice to have had BOTH in this set for comparison/historical purposes but such was not the case.This print shows absolutely no improvement over the previously released VHS version also released in the 90s.It shows very few signs of being "cleaned up" at all.They have again adjusted the contrast but other than that and the sound being improved through digital means,the film as a re-release (technically) overall is a disappointment.
And the final film in this set "Free and Easy" is again, and even MORE so, a technical disappointment.Read more ›
There are some wonderful moments here. The "elevator" shot, in which Keaton goes up and down several flights of stairs to catch a call from his beloved, is a highlight, as are many of the pool scenes. Watch out for the [...] shot in the pool.
The other films are interesting to watch once, just to say that you've seen them. But knowing the heights that Buster had attained, it's hard to watch as he loses control of his work, knowing that his worst years are just ahead of him at this point. It helps knowing that all worked out relatively well in the end, but MGM just didn't know what they had, and didn't know how to go about letting a genius be a genius. Perhaps they didn't recognize what they had in Buster. I don't know.
I wouldn't recommend this collection to the Buster newbie. It's best to start off with "Sherlock Jr." or "The Navagator" or "Our Hospitality" first, then on to meatier works such as "The General" or perhaps the Keaton/Arbuckle collection. Only then would I try this collection. Though I found "The Cameraman" quite entertaining, the other films are really only for Buster afficianados.
The only highlight for me in "Free and Easy" for example, was Buster singing the title song and doing a little dance in clown makeup. It was a kick just to hear his voice, though that midwest twang of his might give some indication of why MGM, or most anyone else at the time, didn't realize that under that yokel voice and uneducated manner of speaking of his lurked a true master.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
not sure if you should pay this much when you can get this for free with sound in daily motion and you tube. Read morePublished 4 months ago by A. McClure
Very good DVD. All movies were good quality for the time. The Cameraman was the best movie of the lot. Worth buying for that one alone. Read morePublished 15 months ago by John Gutman
The name of Buster Keaton is regarded as one of the greatest silent comedians. The three films in this set are ample reasons for his fame. Read morePublished on May 6, 2014 by Jerome H. Rubin
3 fine representive films at MGM. 2 superb silents. Excellent commentary on both silent films by Keaton Historian experts. Both films are well preserved considering their age. Read morePublished on March 12, 2014 by Robert M. Jensen
Great gift for some of my older friends =) They said it brought back wonderful memories of the past. Great sellerPublished on February 9, 2014 by Jorge
I LOVE this collection. The cameraman and Spite Marriage are among my favorite Keaton films, but the packaging is excellent. Read morePublished on August 27, 2013 by Sandra K. Keffer
I purchased the item for a friend of mine and my friend loved it and said that is very satisfiedPublished on March 5, 2013 by Adnor Pitanga