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.
As a massive Buster Keaton fan I'm very excited to have bought this DVD set. It's everything I expected and more! All the films were incredibly well restored and the special features will keep you entertained for a long time. The delivery arrived in great condition and I recommend this DVD set to all silent film fans. I also think it would be a great gift to give to a kid, to introduce them to the world of silent film.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Buster Keaton shorts - 5 StarsJuly 18 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Five stars for Buster Keaton's shorts presented together in one 3-DVD set and in chronological order. It's nice to have a quick reference to Buster's shorts as the Art of Buster Keaton scattered the films over 10 DVDs so that you could not just pop in a DVD and watch the shorts in succession. However, Kino does leave a bit to be desired as you're led to believe that there is no available ending to Hard Luck. The Art of Buster Keaton, "Keaton Plus" DVD includes the ending of Hard Luck (explained in Mr. Mular's review). I had hoped that films like The Electric House, Day Dreams and Convict 13 would be improved, but no improvements to these films, although the enhanced films are nice. Everything here, other than the "visual essays" is available on The Art of Buster Keaton (shorts), Industrial Strength Keaton (Seeing Stars, Character Studies) and Lost Keaton (Why They Call Him Buster). The new material here, the visual essays, gives interesting details of the films and many of the other actors. The musical scores are appropriate (no Alloy Orchestra). Based on memory, some musical scores are the same as the Art of BK while a few others are different. For those who buy everything Keaton, this set is worth having despite duplicating much of what you already have!
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
TO CALL THIS "ULTIMATE" IS AN INSULTDec 17 2011
martin emiliano arias
- Published on Amazon.com
I won't speak here about the films in themselves, which are OF COURSE WONDERFUL and deserve as much stars as can be given.
Nor would I speak about the music, as many other reviewers do.
I'll just speak about the prints.
Kino calls this set ULTIMATE, which is an insult to the fan, as TWO of the films here are presented in severely cut and damaged prints, while BOTH exist in not pristine but MUCH MORE COMPLETE and WATCHABLE restorations somewhere else.
The first short I'm referring to is CONVICT 13, which appears in the Kino set with a severely fragmented beginning, many missing shots in the middle, and a nearly unwatchable ending sequence. To call this ultimate is outrageous while a vastly superior restoration with the beginning intact, nearly all of the missing middle sequences, and the ending taken from a much sharper print has already been issued on DVD. It`s on the 2001 Arte Video French set BUSTER KEATON "L'Integrale des courts-metrages". Ten years have elapsed from that issue. So it's unforgivable that this print wasn't requested. The set is still available on Amazon France:
The second is, of course, HARD LUCK. The print shown here is the first restoration presented. But since then, much better prints have appeared and a new restoration, much much better than the original one, was included by Kino on its BUSTER KEATON PLUS DVD. It's also on the aforementioned French set. That restoration's improvement doesn't limit to the added ending gag. It has better image quality all throughout, and fills most of the gaps from the original restoration, which is missing footage on plenty of places.
There is a newly discovered (albeit not very important) shot at the ending of DAY DREAMS, but the version on this set doesn't incorporate the police parade sequence which was shown out of place on BUSTER KEATON PLUS. It does, however, add a couple of stills, but I'm not really sure about how right Kino is in putting two of them in between the film. One is a still showing Keaton in front of a judge, and is placed right before the climactic scene on which Buster is running from dozens of cops. The other is placed very near the end and has Keaton literally sending himself to his girl at the mail office. When watching the last still, you'll notice Buster is not hurt at all. But when he arrives to the girl's home in the trunk, he has a brown eye, among other things. It could have happened to him during the trip, but maybe both stills are not from missing but from deleted scenes. I say this because of that possible continuity mistake I mention, and because the big chase seems to me much more climactic and appropriate than a judge scene to follow the shot of the girl dreaming of Buster. The sequence of Keaton playing a Roman in the theater is improved here using better footage (but that was already like this on the French set). In any case, the hospital and bank dream sequences (which were surely very short and are showcased with stills) are still missing (and hopefully they will turn up someday), the already found police parade sequence is not inserted here, and the actual ending is still missing. Keaton wouldn't have ended the short that way.
THE LOVE NEST presents here the most complete print I've ever seen, adding the PORT sequence which had been shown separately on BUSTER KEATON PLUS (but is also to be found in its proper place on the French set, although the title card wasn't properly translated (from the print's original Frech title card) and the gag is thus impossible to understand. On the KINO set we do have a previously unkwnown (although, again, not very important) two-second shot of Buster at the very end of the film (absent from the French set). But, as in all known prints so far, the ending is missing. We hope it will be found somewhen.
As for the rest, the prints are all the same as on EVERY previous issue of these shorts. THE ELECTRIC HOUSE has some added explanation title cards explaining missing (and possibly missing) sequences, but not a single new frame is added and the print has all the same old gaps. The same is to be said about THE FROZEN NORTH. The rest of the films had no gaps whatsoever, and are also fine here.
Some shorts are presented here in digitally enhanced versions. Frankly, I dont't give a lot for the change.
The SPECIAL FEATURES are OK, although they are in no way essential.
I don't say the set is BAD, but to call it ULTIMATE is an insult. It lacks material that has been around for a decade by now. I undestand KINO may have not the rights for the fine restorations of CONVICT 13 or HARD LUCK, or for the missing known footage from DAY DREAMS. But if you are not planning to, or can't arrange to use them, THEN YOU CAN'T CALL THE SET "ULTIMATE" AT ALL.
It's like putting on the market an old METROPOLIS restoration without the recently found 25 minutes and call it ULTIMATE.
You cannot still open HARD LUCK with the title card saying that the ending gag might be lost for ever WHEN EVERY KEATON FAN HAS ALREADY SEEN IT MANY YEARS AGO BY NOW.
KINO is a respected and specialized company, and certainly not a newcomer, so they shouldn't do these kind of things.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Reel Shy of UltimateSept. 9 2011
Brent R. Swanson
- Published on Amazon.com
This latest packaging of Buster Keaton's starring short subjects is generally superior to previous collections, including those from Kino. It wasn't that long ago that film scholars were lamenting the close of the century, when all silent era rediscoveries would surely come to an end due to nitrate cellulose's self-destruction. Thanks to a variety of circumstances (and collectors), the situation hasn't been all-out dire, and new discoveries and restorations are still being made, as witness this collection as well as Kino's ongoing "ultimate" editions of the Keaton features. But this good fortune hasn't prevented Kino from coming into conflict with itself.
Overall, the majority of these short subjects are in the best visual conditionsthey've ever been in, with a few exceptions. "The Electric House" remains in bad shape; "The Love Nest" and "Daydreams" still lack footage, and nitrate hypo-ing still mars the launch of Buster's "Damfino" in "The Boat." But the majority of the shorts never looked better, and some, like "Convict 13," are more complete than they were in the original "Art of Buster Keaton" set.
So what are we to make of the decision to present "Hard Luck" in its patchy and incomplete form rather than in the still incomplete but much repaired and improved version found on Kino's "Keaton Plus?" The supplemental material suggests that this is intended as a tribute to Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, who presented this particular restoration in 1987. Okay, but since Kino isn't shy about presenting both standard and digitally enhanced versions of certain titles, even while downplaying the quality of the enhanced versons, why couldn't they also have presented the Brownlow/Gill "Hard Luck" side-by-side with the improved print? I suspect that Kino was attempting not to undercut sales of "Keaton Plus," even while that title and the "Art of Buster Keaton" titles disappear in the wake of the "ultimate" editions. This conjures-up visions of yet another boxed collection with a "bonus" disc of rarities added to prompt another round of re-buying; I hope this won't be the case.
Otherwise, this set is something we could only have dreamed about a few decades back. Several of the musical scores are new. One is an archaic relic from the heyday of Raymond Rohauer's reissues; most of the others are new accompaniments by Ben Model and Robert Israel. I must agree with some of the other reviewers on one point: the Fotoplayer scores are a bit much in this format. I live within commuting distance of a functional Cremona Fotoplayer and I enjoy its sound, but for these comedies, the instrument is inadequate, producing more cacophony than audio enhancement. The visual essays and outtakes are all of interest, and the thin booklet is a useful guide to the contents.
This is probably the definitive Keaton short subject collection, at least for the time being. But with so much going for it, it's frustrating to see it come up short of the perfection due its subject.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A MUST HAVE COLLECTIONSept. 2 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
I don't think it's possible for someone to be a true film buff and not appreciate the impact Buster Keaton made on the art of screen comedy. The ingenious gags, daring stunts, and technical virtuosity with which Keaton embellished his films often surpasses the work of his two biggest rivals, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.
Kino's three-disc set of all nineteen two-reel comedies Keaton made between 1920-1923 is required viewing for all classic film enthusiasts. Re-mastered in HD from 35mm archival sources, these very funny shorts represent the full range of Keaton's comedic style, and include themes, situations, and props he would expand upon in his feature films. Although not exactly pristine, this collection still boasts the finest quality available on most of these popular titles. There are some with extensive wear, such as splice jumps, missing footage, and nitrate decomposition. For a few select films, Kino opted to include digitally cleaned up versions along with the raw originals. I have my reservations about DNR as it compromises the integrity of the image, and some of the damage was apparently beyond even digital repair.
The excellent musical accompaniment is by the likes of Robert Israel, Bill Model, and the Mont Alto Orchestra. Special features include fifteen visual essays by various Keaton historians, a series of alternate/deleted shots, a collection of clips from comedies influenced by Keaton, an eight-page booklet, four visual essays on the locations Keaton used, and two films featuring cameos by Keaton and many other silent comedians.
As far as a complete collection of Keaton's brilliant two-reelers goes, this edition is unsurpassed and should occupy pride of place in any film lover's home video collection.
My highest recommendation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Cut to the ChaseNov. 6 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Black and white movies put me at ease. Often, I don't much follow the plot, rather it is the image of long gone sets and archaic musical scores that serve to amuse. I carry a completely unsupported notion that every movie made in 1948 is good, or at least worth watching. Other fans of the era are taken with the stars, Gable, Grable and Grant to Hope, Hepburn and Hayworth. They certainly have their charm, but it is the image of the saloon they occupy, or streetcar in the background that holds my interest
To take this fascination with framework of film further, one can reach back to the silent era. In these pictures people wear the fashions and drive the cars of our grandparents youth. Since the technology to synchronize sound with image did not exist, directors and actors had to use melodramatic expression and grand gesture to tell a story or get a laugh. One of the masters of the laugh was Buster Keaton, You may remember him, as he was never really forgotten during his lifetime, and worked in film until his death at 70. In 1965, bright and bubbly Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were the featured stars of "Beach Blanket Bingo". The guy who ran the club where they held their fictional shindigs was 69-year-old Buster Keaton.
When Buster was about Frankie and Annette's age, he was making silent comedic shorts with his mentor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Buster was Fatty's sidekick through a series of slapstick short films made from 1917-19. This was no bit part, Fatty was the first film actor to make a million dollars a year. Buster and Fatty amused audiences with elaborate pratfalls, emphasized by Buster's endlessly deadpan expression.
Buster moved on to direct his own series of shorts beginning in 1920. His comedic expression featured elaborate mechanical devices melded with spectacularly athletic acrobatics. In the "High Sign", the final scene features a cross section view showing a home equipped with a series of trap doors and hinged walls that enable Buster to elude an octuplet of villains and win the heart of a winsome woman. In "Neighbors" Buster elopes with his tenement neighbor by seamlessly moving from building to building by stepping from the window of the third floor, and alighting on the shoulders of the fellow emerging from the second floor, who is supported by the fellow who has emerged from the first floor. It is an almost unbelievable choreography of stunt unequaled to this day.
Buster uproariously trips, stumbles, runs into walls, and falls into swimming pools in film after film. But it is his endlessly deadpan expression that is endearing. No matter what travail life tosses across his path, after a sigh or a raised eyebrow he is ready to surmount the next obstacle. Watch the table scene in "My Wife's Relations". Buster cannot grab a bite during a meal with his cloddish brothers in law forking slabs of meat, clawing salt and peppershakers and passing plate after plate. There are no handstands, back flips or other overt gags, just the nuance of his face tells the story and gets the laugh.
If you get the laugh, move onto his feature length films of the mid to late twenties. "The General" is widely regarded as his best. Some, such as iconic actor/director Orson Welles, regard it as one of the best films ever made, period. "Steamboat Bill" also includes stunts and images that are recognizable. Significantly, where the façade of a house falls on Buster, who miraculously happens to be standing where an open window saves him from being flattened. But, to me, these films, can be an hour set up for twenty minutes of non-stop gags. The shorts films are non-stop gags that, using an expression with its roots in silent film comedy, cut right to the chase.