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TO CALL THIS "ULTIMATE" IS AN INSULT
on December 17, 2011
I won't speak here about the films in themselves, which are OF COURSE WONDERFUL and deserve as much stars as can be given.
Nor would I speak about the music, as many other reviewers do.
I'll just speak about the prints.
Kino calls this set ULTIMATE, which is an insult to the fan, as TWO of the films here are presented in severely cut and damaged prints, while BOTH exist in not pristine but MUCH MORE COMPLETE and WATCHABLE restorations somewhere else.
The first short I'm referring to is CONVICT 13, which appears in the Kino set with a severely fragmented beginning, many missing shots in the middle, and a nearly unwatchable ending sequence. To call this ultimate is outrageous while a vastly superior restoration with the beginning intact, nearly all of the missing middle sequences, and the ending taken from a much sharper print has already been issued on DVD. It`s on the 2001 Arte Video French set BUSTER KEATON "L'Integrale des courts-metrages". Ten years have elapsed from that issue. So it's unforgivable that this print wasn't requested. The set is still available on Amazon France:
The second is, of course, HARD LUCK. The print shown here is the first restoration presented. But since then, much better prints have appeared and a new restoration, much much better than the original one, was included by Kino on its BUSTER KEATON PLUS DVD. It's also on the aforementioned French set. That restoration's improvement doesn't limit to the added ending gag. It has better image quality all throughout, and fills most of the gaps from the original restoration, which is missing footage on plenty of places.
There is a newly discovered (albeit not very important) shot at the ending of DAY DREAMS, but the version on this set doesn't incorporate the police parade sequence which was shown out of place on BUSTER KEATON PLUS. It does, however, add a couple of stills, but I'm not really sure about how right Kino is in putting two of them in between the film. One is a still showing Keaton in front of a judge, and is placed right before the climactic scene on which Buster is running from dozens of cops. The other is placed very near the end and has Keaton literally sending himself to his girl at the mail office. When watching the last still, you'll notice Buster is not hurt at all. But when he arrives to the girl's home in the trunk, he has a brown eye, among other things. It could have happened to him during the trip, but maybe both stills are not from missing but from deleted scenes. I say this because of that possible continuity mistake I mention, and because the big chase seems to me much more climactic and appropriate than a judge scene to follow the shot of the girl dreaming of Buster.
The sequence of Keaton playing a Roman in the theater is improved here using better footage (but that was already like this on the French set).
In any case, the hospital and bank dream sequences (which were surely very short and are showcased with stills) are still missing (and hopefully they will turn up someday), the already found police parade sequence is not inserted here, and the actual ending is still missing. Keaton wouldn't have ended the short that way.
THE LOVE NEST presents here the most complete print I've ever seen, adding the PORT sequence which had been shown separately on BUSTER KEATON PLUS (but is also to be found in its proper place on the French set, although the title card wasn't properly translated (from the print's original Frech title card) and the gag is thus impossible to understand. On the KINO set we do have a previously unkwnown (although, again, not very important) two-second shot of Buster at the very end of the film (absent from the French set). But, as in all known prints so far, the ending is missing. We hope it will be found somewhen.
As for the rest, the prints are all the same as on EVERY previous issue of these shorts. THE ELECTRIC HOUSE has some added explanation title cards explaining missing (and possibly missing) sequences, but not a single new frame is added and the print has all the same old gaps. The same is to be said about THE FROZEN NORTH. The rest of the films had no gaps whatsoever, and are also fine here.
Some shorts are presented here in digitally enhanced versions. Frankly, I dont't give a lot for the change.
The SPECIAL FEATURES are OK, although they are in no way essential.
I don't say the set is BAD, but to call it ULTIMATE is an insult. It lacks material that has been around for a decade by now. I undestand KINO may have not the rights for the fine restorations of CONVICT 13 or HARD LUCK, or for the missing known footage from DAY DREAMS. But if you are not planning to, or can't arrange to use them, THEN YOU CAN'T CALL THE SET "ULTIMATE" AT ALL.
It's like putting on the market an old METROPOLIS restoration without the recently found 25 minutes and call it ULTIMATE.
You cannot still open HARD LUCK with the title card saying that the ending gag might be lost for ever WHEN EVERY KEATON FAN HAS ALREADY SEEN IT MANY YEARS AGO BY NOW.
KINO is a respected and specialized company, and certainly not a newcomer, so they shouldn't do these kind of things.