Buster Keaton - Short Films Collection: 1920 - 1923 (3-Disc Ultimate Edition)
DVD | Box Set
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For the first time ever, Kino International proudly presents a box set of all of Buster Keaton's classic silent short films in one collection. All films have been digital remastered in high definition and include all new extras. ----- DISC 1: THE HIGH SIGN (1920/21 - B&W - 19 Min.), ONE WEEK (1920 - B&W - 24 Min.), CONVICT 13 (1920 - B&W - 19 Min.), THE SCARECROW (1920 - B&W - 18 Min.), NEIGHBORS (1921 - B&W - 19 Min.), THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1921 - Color Tinted - 20 Min.), HARD LUCK (1921 - B&W 21 Min.). ----- DISC 2: THE GOAT (1921 - B&W - 23 Min.), THE PLAY HOUSE (1921 - B&W - 23 Min.), THE BOAT (1921 - B&W - 23 Min.), THE PALEFACE (1922 - B&W - 20 Min.), COPS (1922 - B&W - 18 Min.), MY WIFE'S RELATIONS (1922 - B&W - 17 Min.). ----- DISC 3: THE BLACKSMITH (1922 - B&W - 21 Min.), THE FROZEN NORTH (1922 - B&W - 17 Min.), DAY DREAMS (1922 - B&W - 19 Min.), THE ELECTRIC HOUSE (1922 - B&W - 23 Min.), THE BALLOONATIC (1923 - B&W - 22 Min.), THE LOVE NEST (1923 - Color Tinted - 20 Min.) ----- SPECIAL FEATURES: Fifteen visual essays illustrated with clips and stills, written by various Keaton experts,
Four visual essays on the film's locations by ''Silent Echoes'' author John Bengston, Eight page booklet with an essay by Jeffrey Vance, author of ''Buster Keaton Remembered'', ''The Men Who Would Be Buster'' a collection of clips from slapstick films influenced by Keaton's work, ''Character Studies'' (ca. 1925) a gag film starring Carter DeHaven, with cameos by Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Roscoe ''Fatty'' Arbuckle and others. ''Seeing Stars'' (excerpts) a 1922 promotional film featuring cameos by Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and others.
A series of brief, alternate / deleted shots from ''The Goat'', ''The Blacksmith'' and ''The Ballonatic''.
Top customer reviews
It's interesting to read the wildly differing opinions about the music for the movies on this DVD release. Some people love it, some people hate it. Personally, I like silent movies with up-tempo music and sound effects, so I like the Robert Israel soundtracks. I especially like his music for "The Goat", which I've watched three times already. If you want to know why some of Israel's music sounds so over-the-top, almost like a Spike Jones performance, do a web search for "American fotoplayer joe rinaudo" and you'll see what Israel is playing on for some of the films. It's actually an authentic way to set sound to silent movies.
I have more trouble with Ben Model's music. His accompaniments are not really bad, just undernourished. Often dull and unimaginative, he usually makes no musical comment on the comic actions. He actually explains this in one of the short documentaries: he studied under Lee Erwin, and their idea was to set a flow behind the film and NOT to precisely synchronize sound to image. This explains everything. Lee Erwin's soundtracks can be heard on some of the Harry Langdon movies, and as an alternative soundtrack to Kino's release of "The General", and they are quite cold and dour, and out of sync with the picture in spirit and often literally.
I can understand why Kino wanted to re-record the organ scores. The original organ music, played by Gaylord Carter, and still found on older Kino DVDs of these movies, was very poorly recorded. Carter liked using a lot of high-pitch chords with a lot of vibrato, and this creates a somewhat harsh effect to begin with. Add to this a thin-sounding recording with WOW, and the sound tracks to "One Week" and "Cops" can be brutal on the ears unless you turn down the treble and volume a little. On the other hand, Carter's music-making is exemplary; he makes many a wry comment on the humour through his accompaniment. For instance, in "Cops", you actually hear Keaton call up the horse and talk to him over the telephone. It's very funny. The new recordings by Ben Model sound sumptuous: full-bodied and rich, but he pretty much misses all the possibilities of enhancing the comedy, either by NOT musically commenting in any way on the action at hand, or under-playing it so there is little effect. Keaton's movies have a lot of deliberate cartoonish action, so I am inclined toward accompaniments that accent this characteristic; therefore, I prefer Gaylord Carter over Ben Model, Timothy Brock over Carl Davis, and Robert Israel over Lee Erwin.
Fortunately, and in spite of some miscalculations, Model does some of the best work I've heard from him for these films. His piano accompaniment to "The High Sign" is a particularly fine job, and an exception to his general rule of not making musical comments on the action. An excellent accompaniment. On the other hand, I just saw "One Week" at the Stanford Theatre, accompanied by Dennis James at the organ. Compared to James' organwork, Model's score for this film seems stillborn. He is particularly out of step with the tempo of the film at the beginning, where he plays very slowly. Most disappointing is the lack of drama during the train sequence, and the overwhelming surprise climax is given little emphasis.
With image as good as you'll probably ever see for these films, a complete and chronological collection of ALL Keaton's shorts, and musical accompaniment ranging from brilliantly "Fractured Flickers" to adequate, I highly recommend buying this set.
Some of the transfers are very good indeed, others a little the worse for wear due mainly to the condition of the originals, which is saying a lot, since many were nearly lost altogether. But better than you'll see elsewhere. Kudos to Kino.