Sunday, July 09, 2006

Battling Butler (1926)

A French poster from way back. And how did they get Keaton to look so much like a Frenchman?!

Genre: Silent Comedy

Starring: Buster Keaton (Three Ages; The Navigator)

Directed By: Buster Keaton

Overview: When a foppish rich boy is sent camping to make a man of him, Butler instead falls in love. Her family, however, won't have a wimp as their kin. The family is convinced that the man is in fact 'Battling' Butler, boxer in training. Butler gets sucked into a plan he isn't so fond of, but anything for love...

Acting: Buster Keaton, known as the Great Stoneface, has a signature trademark: he never smiles. No matter how funny something is, he's always... Stonefaced. Even as a child in Vaudeville he was like that. In this, as always, he stays classic Keaton, keeping us in stitches while never letting us know what's goin' on in his head. As for the rest of the cast, typically all larger than he is except for the pretty girl, they all do a great job in their roles.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Imagine going camping with a butler. He brings you breakfast in bed, in your sheik-sized tent, and takes clothes out of your dresser (again in the tent). Romantic dinners, hunting with all the amenities, all funny stuff. The training for boxing and the fight too are all stunty and interesting to watch. I was quite pleased.
Rating: 8

Script: I don't recall the script being full of jokes, but there were a few, mainly just explaining what we're seeing, standard stuff. You want depth, don't watch Silent Era Slapstick, or at LEAST watch some novel-based Victor Hugo stuff. For not bogging us down with unwanted dialogue and keeping the pace, good times.
Rating: 8

Plot: The standard three-act tale. Boy meets girl, boy faces challenge, boy meets challenge. Does he fail? That's up to you to find out, but I think you can guess where 'feel-good' slapstick Keaton plots tend to go. Perhaps a little too easy on the drama.
Rating: 7

Mood: Not as engrossing as it could have been. The consequences of failure or of being found out didn't seem all that great. It's not like he wouldn't have gotten the girl, he's already married to her, and you know how popular divorcées were back in the day. It's fun, it's quaint, but it won't get your heart racing like it could have if the finale had been more drawn out.
Rating: 7

"Um, sir? Excuse me? Sir? I mean, honestly, SIR!"

Overall Rating: 76% (Didn't Put Up THAT Much Of A Fight...)

Aftertaste: Sadly, that concludes the Ten-disk set of Buster Keaton on a lower note than I'd hoped. Upon returning it I asked, "So uh, got any Chaplin?" The answer was a definite yes. Say what you will about the older generation, but as long as they keep giving me what I want, I'll begrudgingly keep them around.

(See, that was a classic apathetic and selfish declaration like the Generation-X was about back when we were younger. Now it's a comment on those younger days see? Yeah... Sealab, right)