Before Buster Keaton made his name as one of the silent cinema's most accomplished and creative comics, he starred in this conventional but cute comedy based on the Broadway play The New Henrietta
(previously made into the Douglas Fairbanks vehicle The Lamb
). Keaton plays the spoiled son of a millionaire unjustly accused of scandalous behavior and tossed into a bustling world that he's completely unprepared for. Apart from the energetic finale, in which he leaps, slides, and wrestles with Wall Street lions on the stock exchange floor, Keaton is given little opportunity for comic gymnastics and the comedy stays safe and conventional. The Saphead
is a completely genial and entertaining film carried by Keaton's sweet charm and plucky naiveté and it made him a star, but it's ultimately a footnote to a career that later blossomed in creative inspiration. Keaton revived the figure of the clueless social dandy with his self-directed features The Navigator
and Battling Butler
. Also featured are Keaton's first two solo shorts: "The High Sign," a knockabout lark in which Keaton infiltrates a secret society of criminals, and "One Week," an inspired gem with newlywed Buster mangling a do-it-yourself house. --Sean Axmaker
More than just a silent comedian known for his pratfalls and clever mimicry, Buster Keaton was an unqualified genius of the American cinema. This DVD presents three of his early works, displaying his extraordinary talents as actor and filmmaker alike. Keaton stars in "The Saphead" (1920, 78 min.) as Bertie Van Alstyne, the spoiled son of a powerful Wall Street financier. Unable to escape the wealth and comfort that are foisted upon him, he pursues individuality in a series of comic misadventures in the speakeasies of New York, the altar of matrimony and even the floor of the American Stock Exchange. "The High Sign" (1921, 21 min.) finds Buster unwittingly involved in a radical secret society known as the Blinking Buzzards, stumbling from assassin to bodyguard in a romantic adventure that climaxes in a mind-boggling romp through a booby-trapped mansion. Dreams of domesticity are systematically satirized and ultimately demolished in "One Week" (1921, 19 min.), Keaton's bittersweet parable of one couple's unflagging determination to build a prefabricated honeymoon cottage.