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.
I've been waiting for a good collection of the Keaton short films for many years and this is the one to get. The prints are beautifully restored and the extras are fascinating, particularly the out-takes (which I did not think existed.) The only negatives are: the missing 'last scene' of HARD LUCK really should be included-- at least you can see it on another disc (Industrial Strength Keaton).
I also thought the Ben Model music was pretty weak in some instances, but the comedy overshadows that. This disc is a must-have.
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For all lovers of Keaton - and of cinematic art - this is a must. The quality is variable - and one hopes that over time restorations will be done on all of these. But in the meantime it's the best we've got. A unique and great artist.
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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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141 of 142 people found the following review helpful
Great shorts in HD, sharper than the DVDs, but could still use some restoration.June 24 2011
Paul J. Mular
- Published on Amazon.com
The films = ***** The Blu-ray Disc = ****
First off- this is grade A+ Keaton material here. If there is just one Buster Keaton set you want to get, this is it! The king of physical technical humor is at his prime here, and houses are one of his main characters in many of these movies.
Kino claims "Newly Mastered in HD from 35mm archival elements" and four titles have been digitally enhanced, but the enhancement didn't go far enough in restoration. In THE BOAT you still see frame shifts (a basic video stabilization process would fix this), contrast flicker and nitrate deterioration. Kino does make the statement that too much restoration alters the original film too much. CONVICT 13 appears to be 50% 16mm film source.
With that said, i decided to cue up the old ART OF BUSTER KEATON DVD set from Kino to do a true comparison to this Blu-ray release and not rely on my memory. The first thing I noticed was how much softer the old DVDs were to this Blu-ray disc, the last time I had seen them was on an older CRT television. While they looked good then, comparing the DVDs now using a Blu-ray player to up-convert them to 1080p on a HD LCD TV they did not look as good. Window-boxing was common on the old DVDs because Kino assumed they would be seen on CRT TVs that often over-scan. Now the Blu-ray presents these in full frame as most HD TVs don't over-scan. IMPROVEMENT? YES!
The biggest improvement is with the short "COPS", which was "enhanced", this Blu-ray presentation is razor-sharp! To compare the quality, just try and read the sign on the front porch of the Police Officer's new house where he is waiting for Buster to arrive with the furniture. On the old soft DVD the sign is pretty much just a white square with possibly some lettering in it, on this new film transfer the letters are crystal clear and easy to read. The entire short is improved this much! One strange sequence in the new presentation of COPS is during the police parade scene, what might be stock footage of a police parade is presented here in LETTERBOX format! I compared these shots to the old DVDs, cued up on two machines to switch back & forth, the old DVDs have these shots in full frame but nothing is really missing in either version. The aspect ratio is just different, in some shots the old DVD looks squeezed while other shots the Blu-ray looks squished. None of these shots includes Buster Keaton, it is just marching policemen. I found no explanation from Kino about this change in aspect ratio.
I carefully checked THE BOAT as it is one of the "enhanced" presentations. The Nitrate Deterioration is still there, but the original DVD has film scratches that were cleaned with DNR. For those opposed to DNR processing, Kino has also included the original un-enhanced version in HD so that you can see the scratches and any small details that the DNR may have removed. Again, more improvements.
Other shorts I compared that did not get an "enhancement" from Kino obviously did not need it as they look great, much better than the old DVDs.
Some exceptions to this are on disc #1: CONVICT 13 seems to exist in only 3rd or 4th generation prints. The picture is grainy & the faces are washed out. The first 9 minutes & the last minute of CONVICT 13 appears to be from a 16mm print where the blacks are crushed (loss of details in dark areas) and the focus is softer. HARD LUCK is restored from many different prints of varying quality, and the last scene is missing (even though Kino included it on the KEATON PLUS DVD). However, we are lucky to have this film at all. One shot of Buster trying to get on a horse is presented in Letterbox here, I wonder what the framing problem was to require this masking. Maybe Kino had to stabilize the shot so much that the frame lines shifted up & down in a distracting manor.
On disc #3 DAY DREAMS, reported to be a three-reeler but exists only as two reels, is grainier than usual & missing some opening shots, the "Dream Sequences" and judge scene just before the cop chase, stills illustrate these. The contrast is also increased indicating possibly a 3rd generation print was used. THE ELECTRIC HOUSE also looks this way, and the print has more wear as well as missing some opening & middle scenes (described in text). At 23 minutes i don't think much is missing, but some missing key plot devices had to be explained.
Disc 1: THE HIGH SIGN (1920) 19 min THE HIGH SIGN (enhanced) (1920) 19 min - The first produced Buster solo short about him protecting a business man from murderous extortionists. Buster shelved this, delaying its release, possibly because it resembled his Arbuckle teamed shorts. ONE WEEK (1920) 24 min - The second produced, but released as his premier solo short. Buster builds his do-it-yourself dream-house! A true CLASSIC! CONVICT 13 (1920) 18 min (half 16mm & half 35mm, 3rd generation quality) - Buster is an inept prison guard. THE SCARECROW (1920) 18 min - While produced after One Week, this tells the story of how Buster get the girl he married. NEIGHBORS (1921) 19 min - The first appearance of Buster's real dad Joe, portraying Buster's on-screen father. Watch for the acrobatic team "The Flying Elephants". THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1921) 20 min (Tinted) - The mob is haunting a house to keep outsiders away, but Buster just can't understand what is going on. HARD LUCK (1921) 21 min (mix of 16mm & 35mm, last scene missing & shown with a production still, even though it is complete on the Keaton Plus DVD also released by Kino!)
Disc 2 THE GOAT (1921) 23min - A case of mistaken identity, Wanted Posters of Dead Shot Dan have Buster's face on them! THE PLAY HOUSE (1921) 23 min - Buster is very where in the theater, playing almost all of the roles at one time. THE BOAT (1921) 23 min (nitrate deterioration) THE BOAT (enhanced) (1921) 23 min (nitrate deterioration) - Buster takes his family on a boat outing, considered one of his best shorts. THE PALEFACE (1922) 20 min - Buster is a traveling salesman in indian territory, and he likes the women. COPS (1922) 18 min COPS (enhanced) (1922) 18 min - Through a series of misunderstandings Buster thinks he bought a horse & wagon & the Police Chief thinks Buster is the moving company wagon. MY WIFE'S RELATIONS (1922) 17min - Thought to be produced as Buster's reflection on his failed marriage st the time.
Disc 3 THE BLACKSMITH (1922) 21 min (some nitrate deterioration) Watch Buster destroy a vintage Rolls Royce, not a popular gag at the time with audiences. THE FORZEN NORTH (1922) 17 min (more than usual wear in original print) A very dark comedy as Buster spoofs William S. Hart as a killer cowboy. Hart hated this film. DAY DREAMS (1922) 23 min (Reported to be a 3-reeler, only 2 reels exist. Opening footage,some brief day dream sequences & judge scene missing, shown with a still, grainier that usual) THE ELECTRIC HOUSE (1922) 23 min (Tinted - opening & middle footage missing) Buster modernizes a house. THE BALOONATIC (1923) 22 min THE BALOONATIC (enhanced) (1923) 22 min - oddly titled short as most of it takes place in a canoe on a river. THE LOVE NEST (1923) 20 min (Tinted- the beginning & end scenes seem way too abrupt & it is believed more was shot but disintegrated.) This has to be the most morbit & dark comedy that Buster produced since The Frozen North, death at sea is the basis of some of the humor.
BONUS MATERIAL: SEEING STARS (excerpts) (1922) featuring cameos by Keaton, Charlie Chaplin & others. CHARACTER STUDIES (1922) gag film starring Carter DeHaven with cameos by Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle & others. A series of brief alternate/deleted shots from THE GOAT / THE BLACKSMITH / THE BALOONATIC. (Gee, at one time Buster thought his films were lost, now we even have alternate takes surviving!) 4 visual essays on the films locations by Silent Echo's author John Benglson 15 visual essays using clips & stills, written by Keaton historians. A collection of clips from films influenced by Keaton's work (no big deal here). Clips from: Only Me (1929) Lupino Lane (complete 15 minute short) Be Reasonable (1921) Billy Bevan Hello Baby! (1925) Charley Chase White Wings (1923) Stan Laurel
There is also a little booklet with descriptions of each film.
Some Keaton historians suggest watching these three shorts in this order to make a feature length movie: THE SCARECROW ONE WEEK THE BOAT Try it, you will be surprised! A 1949 Life magazine article suggests that these could be strung together, maybe even re-made as a sound feature. That never happened.
Final thought: I used to cherish the old ART OF BUSTER KEATON DVD set from Kino, but now it just looks like an old VHS tape compared to these new Hi-Definition transfers. It is nice to have the shorts collected together in chronological order. I always had trouble remembering which Keaton DVD feature the shorts were included on, and the old DVD menus were painful to get through to the shorts. Now the menus make it easy to cue up to what you want to see. However, I wish Kino did not use the word "Ultimate" for a set that has a few sub-standard prints as masters. We may never find a better master for these, but to me "Ultimate" would mean every short is in pristine condition with no need for an upgrade.
*****UPDATE 7/15/11***** I was informed by Kino that they no longer have access to, nor the rights to, the missing footage used in the "Keaton Plus" DVD that they had released. That is why HARD LUCK is missing the ending, it is not lost.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
AMAZING SET!!!!!!July 27 2011
Mr. Pd Kyriacou
- Published on Amazon.com
I am going to get the negatives out of the way first...yes the footage that has been found over recent years from Hard Luck, Day Dreams, Convict 13 and The Love Nest are not present on this edition. But that aside there is new footage on The Haunted House (When Buster is running away from the cops in the woods and is shot at...there is extra footage here that I have not seen before) and there are some really beautiful-newly presented prints e.g One Week and Cops.
I have the Masters Of Cinema collection of Keatons short films so if I ever fancy having a gander at the final gag at the end of Hard Luck I will do but I get the same, if not more enjoyment out of watching the blu-ray edition.
This set visually is far far far far... better than any set out there the quality of the prints is astonishing, whether the print is from a good source or not, they still look brilliant. The music accompanying the films are brilliant, I really like the new organ scores by Ben Model.
The visual essays and other great extras make this set the "Ultimate" Keaton short films set yet, even if it is not the most complete, but like I said, I get just as much enjoyment out of these beautifully presented classics as they are on this set.
Whether you are a Keaton fan or not this is a set that should be had by any comedy or general film/cinema lover and I would give it 10 stars if I could. Simply...WONDERFUL!!! Great job Kino International, keep the Keaton releases coming!!!
Footnote: Just watched Day Dreams, although it is missing the police parade scene that featured on the Masters Of Cinema set. This set contains additional footage not present on any previous release, and there are added stills, again not previously presented which helps make sense of why Buster is running from a massive group of cops and why he appears on the back of a mail van.
Further Footnaote: I have just finished watching all the Keaton blu-ray shorts and I have to stand corrected. I was under the impression that The Love Nest did not feature the footage found and included in the Masters Of Cinema collection. This blu-ray set DOES include the missing footage and more, it has a small segment at the end which I have never seen before. Also there is a screen shot of the Love Nest ship, that I have again not seen featured on any other set. The Love Nest is now the most complete it has ever been. Other than a small segement at the start of Convict 13, the missing footage from Hard Luck that we all know about and the tiny fragment from Day Dreams, this set is as complete as you can get, I still think this is the very best set of Keatons shorts to be released!
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Kino is a poor steward of Keaton's filmsOct. 16 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
I wish that I could give this 5 stars, but I can't. Too many of the films are in poor condition and require major restoration, which Kino is apparently unwilling to undertake. It's rather disingenuous of them to be offering this "remastered" set on Blu-ray when the source material so obviously needs help. A Harold Lloyd collection was recently released, fully restored. Buster Keaton is arguably a more important figure in silent film comedy and deserves at least equal treatment. Bad on Kino for not doing so.