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Battling Butler/Go West [Blu-ray]

Buster Keaton , Sally O'Neil , Buster Keaton    NR (Not Rated)   Blu-ray

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Product Description

Studio: Kino International Release Date: 09/27/2011 Run time: 183 minutes

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray comparison to old DVDs. Blu is sharper, but there are a few flaws. Sept. 14 2011
By Paul J. Mular - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
**** = Go West video
*****= Go West story
****1/2= Battling Butler video
*** = Battling Butler story

To be fair, I compared the old "The Art of Buster Keaton" DVD 2005 release to this new blu-ray release using the same Sony Blu-ray player, up-converting the DVD to 1080i.

GO WEST (1925) 68 minutes
Video = While a credit is given to a Library of Congress/Packard Campus for audio visual conservation, there is little improvement here. Some scenes such as the one where Buster falls out of the train & goes down the hillside look way better here. In fact, almost all outdoor scenes are a little darker, bringing out more detail.
One scene originally timed wrong in the original release still looks wrong here. At the 23:22 mark during a night scene, Buster hears a Coyote and then we cut to a daytime scene of a coyote. Was this originally darkened for the theatrical release to look like nighttime, or am I missing the point and this is a joke targeted at "day-for-night" scenes?
Other scenes such as those outside the cabin, in the general store, and inside the freight car look almost the same, just sharper.
There are some new flaws in this transfer that were not in the old DVD which leads me to believe that either 1) an older sharper 35mm print was used for this transfer, or 2) the original 35mm print has suffered some new damage.
At 16:27 & 47:48 there is some Nitrate deterioration on the left side that was not there before.
At 23:59 there is a white emulsion scratch that appears and stays for a reel, this scratch is not in the old DVD transfer.
I find it hard to believe this is all a new 1080i transfer as there seems to be some up-conversion artifacting in several scenes. I had heard that some Buster Keaton films were transfered to lower resolution Hi-Defenition before 1080i became the standard. I don't know if this is true for GO WEST, but it appears that way.
Story = This is Buster in top form! Go West deserves better notoriety, it is almost up there with The General! Jobless Buster heads west and finds a job as a hapless cowboy on a cattle ranch. In general there is little plot, just Buster let loose on a cattle ranch to make his own misunderstood mayhem. But there is an underlying plot of a neighboring rancher trying to keep the cattle from this ranch from making their destination on a train. Now Buster gets to play on some real trains again! To go on about the non-stop visual gems of this feature would ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it before. So stop reading & click the "Buy" button.

BATTLING BUTLER (1926) 85 minutes
Video = The first change is a new Library of Congress/Packard Campus for audio visual conservation notice followed by a title card informing viewers of the story's origin as a play, then we get the MGM roaring (mute) Leo logo, all of which were not on the original DVD. After that the title cards seem the same, including another credit for the story to the original play. It is puzzling as to why this duplicate credit is made, but both seem to be in the original negative and not re-created for this video.
The image is so much sharper on this new transfer for Blu-ray that the camping scenes seem to jump off of the screen! The details of the trees in the woods is amazing! This definitely looks like a 1080i transfer & well worth the upgrade.
The only complaint I have is that the film negative blemishes are not cleaned up. Spots & scratches appear through out, heavier around the 10 minute reel changes.
Story = Battling Butler makes little use of Buster's unique qualities. Only the camping scenes in the first 17 minutes or so show off Buster's brand of comedy. I especially enjoy the fishing scene, it is pure Buster at his best. The next hour of the film is standard screwball situation comedy, you could have substituted Buster with Harold Lloyd and gotten the same film. The boxing scenes are done mostly without laughs, I think boxing comedies were done better with Charlie Chaplin or The Three Stooges. I kept waiting for their antics to liven up the film. This is not say the film is a failure, it is a fun situation comedy that lacks Busters special brand of humor.
PC WARNING = some may be put off by seeing the other boxer's wife with a black eye, suggesting the beating she got from her husband. This was to emphasize the threat to Buster when he would encounter the boxer.

The music seems to be the same exact music as used in the old DVDs. I didn't watch the entire DVD to see if there were any changes.

Overall I think there is a reason Kino paired these together. GO WEST may not be enough of an upgrade to warrant a Blu-ray purchase, but BATTLING BUTLER is. So you end up buying this for the upgrade. BUTLER is not a strong enough film to sell on its own, so others may buy this to get WEST.

If you are still unsure about buying this, then consider the NEW BONUS MATERIAL:
1) A rare 60 minute audio recording of Buster Keaton reading a proposed script for the western TV show "Wagon Train".
2) GO WEST - a 1923 Hal Roach DIPPY DO DADS short performed by a troupe of monkeys.
3) A Gallery of photographs from the ORIGINAL 1922 stage production of THE BATTLING BUTLER.
4) Galleries of production stills for both films revealing un-filmed scenes.
5) Screenplay excerpts from a proposed 1947 remake of BATTLING BUTLER.

Any chance to see a Dippy Do Dad short is worth the price. And seeing stills from GO WEST that illustrate some un-filmed scenes are a pleasure to see.

I don't have the new DVD version of this Blu-ray to compare to, so i don't know how much of an upgrade it would be.

****** Contrary to Amazon's listing, the Blu-ray version is just a single (1) disc release, both movies and all bonus material are on one Blu-ray Disc. It is the DVD that is on two (2) discs.******
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blu Ray Buster a Bit of a Disappointment Oct. 3 2011
By See Em Gee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
This is for the new Blu Ray Buster Keaton "Go West" and "Battling Butler." First of all let me state that I love all Buster Keaton, these films rank among my top favorites for Keaton. He was an absolute genius when doing what he loved best. I'm not sure what I expected but I have many restored silent films and restored Blu Ray films of different eras and this is a disappointment. Many scenes are washed out and as stated in another review, there are many scratches and other blemishes that I find distracting. The pictures are indeed sharper but overall I would be just as happy to watch the earlier versions KINO produced. The extras do nothing for me, the short is not my cup of tea and the other extras are just okay. Both films and extras are on a single disc.

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.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaving the comfort of home-zones Oct. 23 2011
By E. Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
GO WEST (everything by Buster Keaton, 1925, 69 minutes) & BATTLING BUTLER (everything by Keaton what else is new, 1926, 68 minutes) have to both go here because I am tired of offering confusing reviews on these double-bill DVDs.

GO WEST was BK's homage - some say parody of - Charlie Chaplin films. I disagree strongly. BK was fond of parody and occasionally parodied Chaplin, but not here. For some strange reason, Keaton said this was his "best film". Apparently not his favorite film, which is also considered his best: The General (Enhanced) 1927. Here BK is "Friendless", a drifter from Indiana who ends up going West to cattle ranch. This film is excellent in that it shows the cruelty of ranching.

Essentially this begins with Friendless falling in love with a very sweet cow named Brown Eyes - and he ends up successfully herding 1,000 head of cattle to the stockyard in Pasadena. (Though this was filmed on location in L.A., people always erroneously say it takes place in L.A.) There is so much hilarious fun I won't spoil anything. How can I? This film features innovative work such as the cow-mounted camera work and BK's uncanny ability with cattle.

As in College (see my review), this film shows a terrible momentary camera flare due to the sun. I suspect BK shrugged it off, unable to do anything about it, but it would never again appear on his films. It also has a hair-raising train ride and a cute ending that will have you rolling on the floor. I do not know why critics dismiss this fine work.

BATTLING BUTLER (BK at the helm again, 1926, 68 minutes) is one of the darkest and most haunting of Buster Keaton's films. This movie inspired not only the comedy ARTHUR but was also studied by Scorsese for RAGING BULL. Here BK plays millionaire playboy Alfred Butler, who falls for a gal and also discovers a rising boxing star whose name is Alfred Butler, called "Battling" Butler.

To impress his gal and her family (because in those days money meant nothing I guess), Alfred tells them he is the boxer "Battling" Butler. In a complicated and gothic plotline, poor little Alfred is sucked into the world of prizefighting and training hard. Here, as with GO WEST, BK is determined to show cruelty: the cruelty of the boxing world. As he does his dance with the real boxer's identity, he inadvertently gives the wrong impression with the other Alfred's wife.

BK shows up ringside to watch some training and encounters the boxer's wife again - he had met her when she injured a heel and he gave her a ride. He asks, "How's your heel?" She points to the ring and says, "He's alright." Does that ever look bad! Funny! Like the mean, snarling villain BK played in his 1922 short FROZEN NORTH, here he steps out of his usual zone to give a terrific performance. Like his formal wardrobe, he is noble, stiff and formal. No porkpie could possibly enter this - yet his girl's brother wears one. That BK!! Never a dull moment.

He of course marries his sweetheart near the beginning of the film, so the rest is all the tension mounting. It is unbelievable and prescient of Hitchcock in its suspense. The dean from COLLEGE here plays BK's trusty and troublemaking butler Martin. Not only does BK do his crying/foot-stamping routine to great effect here for the first and only time since his silent shorts; he also shows some serious acting chops in the great finale fight between himself and boxing Alfred. He kicks butt and looks vicious - there is no comedy at all in that harrowing scene.

Only a word of caution: this film is sometimes panned by certain critics and I see it is not as popular as it should be. This has the most complex, fascinating story/plot of any of BK's films. If it lacks comedy, it is because BK was pushing some new frontiers as always. Do not rebuke his memory or refuse this film just because it leaves the comfort zone. What do you think Buster Keaton's whole life was about anyway?!

The viewer can examine the whole list of Keaton's Golden Years of film, and watch them all. What pops out is this: BK's 'life-motif' in his movies is that the average Joe can achieve his American Dream - no matter what that dream is. You learn from BK that you must find what's really important - whether it is a girl, a cow or a job - after that, anything's possible and you can do what you wish.

Buster Keaton always pays homage to every American, to the American spirit. He IS the original American spirit. He is THE American film master, the master of all time, and he IS comedy. You'll see that American spirit here and in films such as COLLEGE, Our Hospitality: ULTIMATE EDITION (which makes BK America's Jane Austen) and THE GENERAL (see my reviews of all his greats).

You cannot call yourself a film fan and miss either of these two classics. Or for that matter, miss any of Buster Keaton's golden classics. You miss out on BK, you might as well give up watching movies.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray: This double feature Blu-ray release featuring "Go West" and "Battling Butler" is highly recommended! Dec 16 2011
By Dennis A. Amith (kndy) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
Exciting, enjoyable and the magnificent physical comedy of one of the greatest stars of all time...Buster Keaton!

Have you been wanting more Buster Keaton on Blu-ray! Kino Lorber has a new Blu-ray release planned for Sept. 2011 with the release of "Go West" (1925) and "Battling Buttler" (1926).

"Go West" is a film written and directed by Buster Keaton and it was a film in which Keaton wanted to capture the realistic scenery by filming in the deserts of Arizona (something that his film crew did not want to do because of the extreme heat). In fact, during the filming of "Go West", the film had to be reshot a few times because the film stock melted and the crew realized, the only way this film was going to be made is by quick thing and that was to submerged their cameras in ice to keep cameras operable and film stock intact.

The film also became one of Keaton's most expensive films ever made as it required a stampede of cows, especially having the cows walk through the city.

In 1925, the film didn't exactly do great in the box office but many years later, many fans of Keaton's silent films do feel that it's one of his most entertaining silent comedies.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

"Go West" (1925) and "Battling Butler" (1926) receives its HD release and are presented in black and white while the latter does have color-tinting. Having previously owned "The Art of Buster Keaton" Kino DVD boxset, I can easily say that these two films do look great on Blu-ray. The contrast looks great, the films look sharp and these are the best version of both films via picture quality to date.

While "Go West" is the better of the two when it comes to picture quality, both still manage to look better than its DVD counterpart in the fact that the whites and grays show awesome contrast, much more detail and black levels are nice and deep. You do see lines and white specks from time-to-time on "Battling Butler" but by no means does it take away from the viewing of these two films.

The fact that both of these films show no major nitrate degradation and are complete films is a major plus and have no doubt that Keaton fans will agree that the picture quality for both films are very good!

As for the audio, for "Go West", the music is composed and performed by Eric Beheim and "Battling Butler" features music arranged and directed by Robert Israel. There are no alternate soundtracks but for those who enjoyed the music from the previous DVD release, will be happy that they are featured in the Blu-ray release.

The music for both films are well done and compliment the film just perfectly!

SPECIAL FEATURES

"Go West" comes with the following special features:

Go West - A 12 minute comedy short produced by Hal Roach and features the trained monkeys (The Dippy Do Dads).
60-Minute Audio Recording - An audio recording of Buster Keaton working on a script proposal for the Western TV series "Wagon Train" (courtesy of Bob Bergen).
Photo Gallery - Production stills from "Go West".

"Battling Butler" comes with the following special features:

Screenplay Excerpt - A screenplay excerpt featuring text on the unproduced remake of "Battling Butler" written by Keaton in 1947.
Gallery - Gallery of photographs from the 1922 stage production of "Battling Butler".
Photo Gallery - Production stills from "Battling Butler".

EXTRAS:

"Go West and Battling Buttler" comes with a slipcase cover.

JUDGMENT CALL:

Once again, Buster Keaton fans are treated with two more films from the filmmaker's oeuvre showcasing his physical comedy as an actor but also his directorial and screenplay writing efforts in "Go West" and directorial effort for the film adaptation of the stage play "Battling Butler".

Both films precede his "The General" (1927) and "Steamboat Bill, Jr." but there was no doubt that Buster Keaton, a perfectionist, would cause concern with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with "Go West" as it was an expensive film that required multiple do-overs because of filming in the desert of Arizona proved to be problematic for the cameras and the film stock.

While "Go West" would showcase Buster Keaton as a cowboy, it was a silent comedy western that was unlike any Western ever made and still is a unique film that holds up perfectly well in 2011. In 1925, Buster Keaton brought in a large numer of cows to walk the streets of Hollywood. Just watching the scene of, who knows how many cows were featured, walking through the city of Los Angeles in broad daylight was accomplished.

It's probably the only film in which a woman is not Buster Keaton's leading lady but a cow named Brown Eyes who is his true friend throughout the film and the female that he is trying to protect. It really is an absurd film but it is a hilarious film that showcases Keaton's comedy. From being a cowboy that doesn't know how to milk a cow, nor does he know how to ride a horse or to lasso a young cow, "Go West" is a film that provides a lot of laughs but a stampede sequence that is literally shocking when you watch it today.

As for "Battling Butler", this is a straight-up Buster Keaton film that takes misunderstandings and lies to make for one exciting sports film. In fact, I'm not really sure if "Battling Butler" is the first boxing film ever created but what we do know is that it is an adaptation of a popular Broadway play that ran from 1923-1924 and that the film was Keaton's most financially successful feature film in the box office.

Keaton has said that "Battling Butler" is one of his favorite films, despite it being forced on him by Joe Schenck but it's a wonderful farce as we see Keaton put into a boxing role and having to go one-on-one with experienced boxers.

But in this screenplay, it diverts from the original Broadway play in the fact that fans do get to see Keaton's character Alfred Butler actually getting into a fight to protect his wife's honor.

But it's a hilarious film that is classic Keaton. Farce combined with Keaton's physical comedy, "Battling Butler" is highly entertaining!

And of the two films, I admit that I am more fond of "Battling Butler" in terms of story but admire the direction of "Go West" because how Keaton directed a large herd of cows through Los Angeles is surprising but yet an amazing thing to watch onscreen. Many decades before CGI and yet, Keaton as always ahead of his time, was able to make it happen.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again...these are the best looking versions of the film to date. In fact, I don't know if I can even watch my older Kino DVD's ever again because these films look so fantastic on Blu-ray. Granted, these films were never 100% pristine but the fact that the contrast and overall look of both films are an improvement from the original DVD release is a major plus.

The special features for this latest Blu-ray release offers different special features compared to the previous release. As I would have loved to see the special features on the behind-the-scenes of the making of both films, at least we are given a rare 60-minute audio recording of Keaton working on "Wagon Train" plus an excerpt of the screenplay for the "Battling Butler" 1947-remake. Sure, I would have loved to have additional choices for audio score but the Eric Beheim for "Go West" and the score for "Battling Butler" from Robert Israel which were used on the original DVD release are already wonderful and compliment the films really well!

Overall, if you have been watching the previous Buster Keaton films on Blu-ray, more than likely you will purchase "Go West" and "Battling Butler". If you are new to Buster Keaton, both films are highly entertaining...are they better than "The General" or "Steamboat Bill Jr.", in my opinion, definitely not. But these two films are still very entertaining and do a great job of showcasing Keaton's physical comedy but also his efforts as a director.

Enjoyable, entertaining and fun...these two Keaton classics are definitely worth watching and this Blu-ray release is definitely recommended!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Blu-ray Oct. 15 2011
By Mr. Pd Kyriacou - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Regardless of the negative reviews about the print imperfections. The two films have never looked better. Go West is not so grey-scale as the previous DVD release, much more clarity, clearer and shows much more detail, especially as this is as good a print that is available.

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.

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