The Saphead (1920)
Directed By: Herbert Blanch, Winchell Smith
Overview: While one man plans double-crosses and hostile takeovers, a rich, young layabout buys a seat on the stock exchange, with no real idea of what he's doing.
Acting: This is Buster's first real feature film. He's not all crazy-run-around-fall- down in this one, but there are some great moments on the stock exchange floor. This is clearly not one of the films that Buster directed himself, and it shows. It's so tame by any other of his films standards. People act well in this, but knowing Buster's potential, I was disappointed.
Cinematography: I guess I'll be doing a lot of comparing in this review, but when you've seen such great films as The General or Our Hospitality, you can't help but think about what's possible. This has some slapsticky moments, but the witty inventions and crazy stunts he's famous for are not part of it. It's mostly just people in rooms with top hats which is fine but nothing special.
Script: The intertitles had a bit of art and style to them, but they were really just vehicles to explain the plot, rather than being there to offer truly humorous pauses. Yes, of course there's a few jokes but you'll find them to be the standard silent slapstick groaners you expected.
Plot: The story is pretty complex, far more than any of Keaton's other tales. We have stock steals and double-crosses while a rich simpleton plods along unaware that he's the only chance for justice to be served. The plot is rich and exciting, and above all other things, this is the reason to watch.
Mood: When you think Silent Slapstick Comedy, you think of Chaplin kicking a cop in the ass, or Harold Lloyd dangling from a clock. Merely having a bunch of guys knock someone's hat off ten times doesn't quite come to par with the kind of comedy that's already been established by 1920. This is more a tale of deception with a big corporate baddy, but you'll agree that once Keaton took over making his own films, they were much better.
Overall Rating: 72% (Can't say It'll Be invigorating)
Aftertaste: This is one of those movies you watch out of respect for a man's craft. You love Buster Keaton and you want to know what his first feature was? This is the one for you. More than anything, I liked this film more from a sociological standpoint, watching a little of life in 1920 with the stock ticker in the office, big top hats and modern day chivalry.