Review for Buster Keaton: Our Hospitality, Go West, College
Buster Keaton is a genius. I feel like every time I receive one of these to review I have to state this, though I'm sure everyone knows this by now. His work is some of the most consistently brilliant, even just from a technical point of view. This set brings together three of his films: Our Hospitality, Go West and College in glorious 2K and 4K Restorations.
Our Hospitality is a spoof of the Hatfield and McCoy feud changed into an almost Romeo and Juliet story. William McKay is coming back to his borth town to reclaim his familie's property, however the Canfields are still holding a grudge against him and his family. Intent on killing him they proceed to hunt him down to no avail. McKay is invited by a girl he met on the train to dinner, only to discover she is a Canfield. This leads to all kinds of crazy antics including an insane water chase and rescue which I had to watch a few times just to see how in 1923 they were able to manage it.
This is a great film, though not as funny as his other works, the story works and there are a number of wonderful sequences which just astounded me.
Go West sees Keaton as 'Friendless' travel to Arizona where he tries his hand as a cowboy, including becoming attached to a cow which saves his life. When his Boss has to sell all the cattle including his new friend, Friendless must stop them. This results in a stampede through the city streets which I again cannot understand how they were able to do this in 1925.
This was a great film with some very amusing sequences. The opening scene in the store had me howling with laughter and Keaton's expressions throughout are just fabulous. There are some great callback scenes with perfect payoffs and this is the mark of fantastic writing.
Saving the best for last, College is possibly one of the best pure comedy films Buster Keaton ever made. Keaton is Ronald, a bookworm, who to impress a girl enters college to take part in sports. However, he literally doesn't know how to do anything and has to get 'Guides' to every sport. This leads to multiple sequences of Keaton attempting and failing at many sports which is almost like parts of a Goofy cartoon. He also has to work while in college and this leads to many inept attempts to make drinks or do anything.
Before College even starts it warns you that there is a sequence where Keaton goes 'Blackface', but apart from the act of blackface there is nothing else to take offence to make the scene distasteful to watch. However, I understand if people would be offended by it, though this does not take anything away from this being a wonderful film and to be honest they should have just cut the scene as it doesn't affect the film it was there or not.
The three disks come packed with extras. Our Hospitality includes a workprint version of the film and it is interesting to see a different edit to the film. The only missing sequence I can see (apart from a few extended gags) is the destroyed dam scene. However, despite the quality (which I do wish had been cleaned up a little) the way this one was edited, having the Prologue come after the Keaton version of McKay is introduced is much better. It's a shame there isn't an option to watch how the workprint is using the restored version as it would have been more enjoyable.
Commentaries are only included on Our Hospitality, the workprint and also on Go West, with none on College. All three commentaries are interesting if you are a Keaton fan and it is clear those talking have a great knowledge and passion for his work which makes them enjoyable to listen to. It is a shame that College does not get one.
Making Comedy Beautiful is a Video Essay by Patricia Eliot Tobias. This again is interesting to see how film and comedy was evolving. When you watch this film you really get the feeling that the studios were now taking the creation of these types of films more seriously.
A Window on Keaton is a Video Essay by David Cairns which is so boring to listen to. This is a shame as what he is saying is actually interesting, it is just a shame his delivery is so drab that I could not concentrate on it. Go West: Filming Locations is really just for people who love the film so much that they want to know where it was created. This is fine, just a little too niche to be essential.
The Go West short from 1923 is possibly the maddest and most troublesome thing I have ever watched. The short features a cast of monkeys (real moneys) acting out a cowboy scene. This is such a bizarre thing which (apart from the title) has nothing to do with Buster Keaton or his film. I just don't understand why this was included or indeed what kind of person would watch it other than because it was produced by the infamous Hal Roach who produced so many of the early Laurel and Hardy films and the classic Harold Lloyd film Safety Last. It is surprising the creators of these sets don't compile all the shorts from him in one set instead of just randomly inserting them in this set.
Silent Echoes is a bizarre look at where the College film was filmed and if you wanted to visit every single set then this would be a great audio journey to go along with.
The Railrodder is a silent film Buster Keaton made in 1965, a year before he died. It is essentially a silent travel around Canada with Keaton getting up to all kinds of crazy antics on a rail cart. What is surprising is that Keaton was Seventy years old when he made this and you can still see a lot of flashes of the old StoneFace genius in this short.
Buster Keaton Rides Again is a Behind the Scenes documentary from when he was making The Railrodder. This is fascinating documentary and I really enjoyed seeing all the interactions with Keaton and it was clear that even so late in his career he still had a passion for filmmaking and recreating the work he was famous for.
Both of these come with a Commentary or Live Q&A with the Director Gerald Potterton who is famous for making films like Heavy Metal and the animation for Yellow Submarine is very interesting to listen to and he seemed to enjoy reminiscing on the work. All three also have Stills Galleries which are fine, but nothing special.
This set is another wonderful look at three of Keaton's films and if you have been collecting these sets then you will need to pick this one up too. There is so much to recommend for Keaton fans and even if you are not, you should be as there was so much on here that I loved. I watched College along with my young son and was not surprised that he loved it too. I cannot recommend the set enough and I hope that they keep creating them.