Battling Butler / Go West
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BATTLING BUTLER (1926): Keaton stars as Alfred Butler, a fragile young man whose father sends him into the country where he hopes masculinity will blossom. Ironically, he is there mistaken for ''Battling'' Butler, a renowned prizefighter of firey temperament. To impress a young lady (Sally O'Neil), Alfred carries on the ruse by engaging in a laughingly inept training regimen, but his harmless charade is soon complicated by the untimely arrival of the true contender (Francis McDonald). When the long-awaited opportunity to prove himself a man finally comes, it is before the gloved fists of the boxer, who initiates a locker-room brawl. There, in a sequence of agonizing tension and delightful surprises, Battling Butler reaches its unforgettable climax. GO WEST (1925): In this hilarious classic Buster Keaton plays a hapless young man (aptly named ''Friendless'') who idealistically hops a freight train westward to meet his destiny, first in a teeming metropolis (where he is roundly trampled by rush-hour foot traffic) then into the ranchlands of Arizona. In the side-splitting course of his attempts at bronco-busting, cattle wrangling, and even dairy farming, Friendless finds himself enamored with Brown Eyes, a particularly affectionate bovine beauty from whose hoof he removed a painful pebble. LOADED with HOURS of Special Features (TBD)!
It was Buster Keaton's extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, when he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies. --Roger Ebert
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Keaton was known for (and includes the 1923 short "Go West"…the little movie doesn't amount to much but I really liked the monkey scale stagecoach). I didn't like "Butler" as well, Keaton was probably in every scene, I'm not sure what the difference is…less stunt work?
When Buster does his boxing you'll see that the man was in as good a physical condition as any of the boxers were. I think the closing scene of the Top hat wearing Keaton, shirtless, walking down the crowded street with his wife might've been a bit daring for 1926.
Suggestion: unless you are a die hard fan and do not already own the KINO versions then certainly buy this disc as the films are wonderful and deserve a place in your home, but if you do own the earlier discs keep watching them, they are not so bad one must upgrade. Blu Ray for me should be a vast improvement in picture and or sound, such as the recent Red Shoes release or grand sagas such as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. Black and White Silent films need restoring and I am thrilled that such projects continue to be done but I am not wildly impressed with the results here. (The Blu Ray Buster Keaton Steamboat Bill, Jr. is recommended as it is a vast improvement over earlier versions and offers a second version of the film.)
Battling Butler, displays a beautiful Tinted print, clear, sharp and not as dull as the DVD release from the Art of Buster Keaton set.
There are not very many extras offered, but as these two films are considered the "lesser" of Keatons films I do not mind.
All in all you get two feature films in HD in pretty great condition on one blu-ray disc. Beautiful packaging and the films most importantly are great. A must for any fan.
Buster's faithful valet is portrayed by "Snitz" Edwards, a prominent character actor from the silent era. Aside from being a very capable actor, his face was his fortune, and landed him many roles. See Keaton's Battling Butler or Seven Chances to understand the full meaning of this comment.
In Go West, like the legendary Androcles who removed the thorn from a lion's paw, Keaton removes a stone from a cow's hoof, thus earning her undying affection. Go West is one of the slimmest storylines for a Keaton film, but as usual Buster provides a full 68 minutes of gags and slapstick that are smile worthy, with a few laugh-out-loud moments, and many warm feelings of sympathy for Buster and his Jersey cow, which has somehow found its way into a herd of range cattle.
The story starts in Indiana, where Buster's character ("Friendless") sells his complete household belongings for a loaf of bread and a large sausage, then follows Horace Greeley's advice to "Go West". The love interest in this film, the daughter of the ranch owner, is purely incidental to the story, and seems to be used primarily to set up the closing gag. But in the hour between Indiana and the Los Angeles Union Stockyards there are many pratfalls, jumps, slides and collisions, all performed by Buster with his usual gusto and easy grace. The climax involves Buster herding 1,000 cattle through streets and stores in Los Angeles, in an action-packed series of slapstick encounters including a scene reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.
This Kino release of Go West is taken from a Library of Congress archival copy, with minor instances of degradation of the nitrate source stock. This is not Keaton at his inventive or technological best, but it is still an enjoyable film, and a pleasant hour in the company of one of the greatest clowns of the silent era. Extras are few, but one is unique: a 12-minute film from Hal Roach in 1923, entitled "Go West". The storyline is not very similar to Keaton's Go West. In this one the actors are mostly monkeys, a few goats, and one dog. It has to be seen to be believed.
Although the Blu-ray edition shows many specks and other blemishes, most noticeably in the older Go West, it is a clear improvement over previous VHS or DVD editions of both films. Rated individually, these two films would be 4½ stars, but as a packaged set I give them five stars for full value, offering two Buster Keaton feature-length movies for the price of one.
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