Brilliantly exemplifying Buster Keaton's ability to mine rich humor from the inanimate, The Navigator is a classic of the Golden Age of Comedy, centered on and about a single extraordinary prop: an immense five hundred-foot yacht. In a return to the "pampered youth" role he had played in The Saphead and Battling Butler, Keaton stars as Rollo Treadway, an inexperienced lad of extraordinary wealth -- and surprisingly little common sense -- who finds himself adrift on The Navigator with no one else on board excerpt an equally na+¯ve girl. After discovering each other's presence in an ingenious ballet of unintentional hide-and-seek, the couple resourcefully fashion a home for themselves aboard the derelict boat, in spite of their unfamiliarity with the tools of domesticity. They then embark on a series of misadventures on the ocean floor and upon the high seas, surrounded by a fleet of menacing cannibals, where the film reaches its explosively funny climax, with the aid of a crate of rocket flares. As a special feature, this DVD includes two additional complete films that demonstrate Keaton's penchant for maritime mayhem. In The Boat, Buster and family set sail aboard the homemade Damfino, while in The Love Nest, he trades sailboat for U-boat to plumb new depths of hilarity.
Buster Keaton revisits his familiar persona of a spoiled society dandy thrown into the surreal world. Young millionaire Rollo Treadway (the sap in the family tree, according to a title card) embarks on a long voyage to nurse his broken heart when his lady love, Kathryn McGuire, turns down his proposal of marriage. Of course he winds up on the wrong dock and boards a derelict ship, which (as luck would have it) McGuire has also boarded. Foreign spies set the ship adrift on the high seas, stranding the pampered heirs, who must now fend for themselves. Keaton indulges in his love of Rube Goldberg contraptions with an elaborate jungle of levers and hatches that turns a giant galley into a veritable automat and dives into 20th-century technology when he dons a diving suit for a hilarious underwater sequence. McGuire makes a marvelous comic partner for Keaton, a gifted physical comedian and a spunky love interest, while the ship plays straight man to their pratfalls and gags, practically coming alive like a haunted house in their first terrified night aboard. The match between man and massive machine proved so successful that Keaton returned to the concept for his two greatest comedies, The General
and Steamboat Bill Jr.
Also featured are a pair of appropriately aquatic shorts: The Boat
, in which Buster packs his family into a leaky houseboat, and The Love Nest
, which pits castaway Buster against a despotic captain. --Sean Axmaker