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Our Hospitality [Blu-ray]

Buster Keaton , Jack Blystone    Blu-ray
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
List Price: CDN$ 39.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars Buste Keaton in a delightful film April 22 2014
By Keith Little TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The film comes on a single sided disc. It's very enjoyable as are all of Keaton's films & shorts. There's an alternate version of the film and some extras included.

Our Hospitality - 1923, 75 mins, colour tinted, 2 separate musical scores - the first composed and conducted by Carl Davis and performed by The Thames Silent Orchestra (in either 5.1 Surround or 2.0 stereo) & the second compiled by Donald Hunsberger (2.0 stereo)

Hospitality - A 49 minute alternate cut of the film, with an explanatory introduction, and an organ score by Lee Erwin

Documentary - Making Comedy Beautiful: Our Hospitality And The Birth Of Buster Keaton's Features (26:04)

Short film - The Iron Mule - 1925, 19 mins, with music by Ben Model

Two galleries - photo & snapshot
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent HD transfer of one of Keaton's best April 14 2011
By Greg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
For some reason this film is less well-known than a lot of Buster Keaton's others...yet I find it a lot more satisfying than something like Steamboat Bill, Jr. or even Sherlock Jr.! It's got his fixation with trains in the first act, a very fun depiction of old narrow-gauge trains that, like most historical depictions in Keaton films, is based on actual accurate history (exaggerated for comic effect). It's got great comedy and suspense in the main plot, which involves Buster inadvertently stumbling into the home of a family, after falling for the girl who lives there, who are the Hatfields to his family's McCoys (or is that the other way around?), and relying on the family's strict Southern Hospitality rules to keep himself from being shot. Of course, if you know much about Keaton you probably already know this film, but if you've just seen a little, this is one of his best.

As for the Blu-Ray: the main musical option is the Thames Silents score by Carl Davis. This alone is reason to get this edition...his scores for this, Keaton's The General, and other silent era films are among the best...fun, tuneful, entirely appropriate yet exciting and never falling into hackneyed contrivances. The transfer is decent...a little more money might have allowed cleaning up the title cards, where the tiny and dense scratches of this print (not as pristine as the one used for Kino's The General Blu-Ray) are very obvious and kind of distracting over the black title card backgrounds. But luckily they don't really show up much in the actual scenes. The transfer is at 1080i - from reading around online that seems to be because this HD transfer was done a few years back before they'd decided 1080p was the way to go for releases, not for any reasons relating to frame rate or anything like that. But again, I'm sure money wouldn't allow a new HD transfer, and I doubt anyone could tell by watching it that it wasn't 1080p...it looks fine to me.

The extras are interesting and worth watching. One extra that needs a slight disclaimer is the unreleased earlier test version, "Hospitality," which seems to be a test cut with mostly just the dramatic scenes, speculation being that Keaton wanted to see if they played before adding in the funny business. It's a nice historical artifact to have, but the print is a very poor reduction print of an original which had suffered major nitrate damage. So, it's historically of interest and I'm glad it's on here, but it would take a fairly obsessed Keaton fan to actually watch more than a few minutes of it.

So: if you are at all a fan of Keaton, or of silent comedy in general, or you think you might be, make sure to snap this up and help assure that the rest of Keaton's library is financially worth putting out in HD! I keep mentioning finances, but silents aren't exactly big sellers, so you take what you can get, and overall this is a great release! If only some Spielberg-type would spend a couple bucks and pay for a fancy restoration/clean-up of one of these historic and still-entertaining films. Oh well.

PS: Yes, silent films can look great in HD! Film's resolution, even back then, was/is much higher than 1080p. This print isn't as wonderful as the one used for The General, but it's still quite an improvement over previous versions and is worth seeing in HD. Plus, Keaton (and other silent era filmmakers) worked in a purely visual medium - seeing a detailed, quality image is definitely worth it!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! Nov. 5 2011
By Mr. Pd Kyriacou - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
The picture quality of this film is superb, even better for that it is in HD. The Carl Davis score creates such a beautiful and climatic mood which this film requires. The extras are fantastic and the the film itself I have always enjoyed, but now with the Carl Davis score and the beautiful way it has been presented now shoots up amongst my favourite Keaton movies.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Keaton's Real McCoy Oct. 2 2011
By E. Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
OUR HOSPITALITY (writ./dir. Buster Keaton, 1923, 73 minutes) is another favorite of mine given to us by the immortal Buster Keaton. I rank this with his The General (The Ultimate Two-Disc Edition) and Our Hospitality/Sherlock, Jr. (I recommend this awesome two-fer DVD set). HOSPITALITY is BK's first great feature-length film, though he had already done a couple of them.

Set in the Antebellum South (1830, Keaton was impossibly ahead of his time making this period authentic-looking) Buster plays Willie McKay, a New York-bred unwilling member of the old Canfield-McKay feud. (Yes, loosely based on the Hatfield-McCoy feud that really lasted only a few years.)

Returning to Kentucky to claim his inheritance (an "estate" that will make you howl with laughter when you see it), Willie soon falls right into the arms of the waiting Canfields. They are, of course, waiting to kill him. Luckily for him he is already sweet on the young Canfield girl (played by his 1st wife Natalie Talmage Keaton) and this will save him later. Uniquely, Buster's son Buster, Jr., plays him at age 1.

There is a waterfall scene in this, and all I'll tell you is Keaton designed and had built the entire thing on one of his lots. Goes to show you, alongside works like THE GENERAL, what Keaton was capable of achieving. You will marvel at Keaton's partly rebuilt, partly restored Stephenson's Rocket locomotive ... and yes, they really did ride those once upon a time.

Another bittersweet detail: Joe Roberts (Old Man Canfield), a dear friend and traditional heavy in Keaton's films, suffered a heart attack while filming. He insisted on returning to finish the film - and died very shortly after they wrapped. Keaton's films are filled with disasters, hair-raising, realistic and funny as hell. Just as often they are filled with tragedies: in this film, along with Roberts' heart attack, Keaton was brutally carried off by water and almost drowned. The scene remains in the film.

While this does not have the accolades of THE GENERAL (then again, how could it), no one can miss watching it. Here for the first time, Keaton experiments fully with his signature lighting, model sets and daring camera shots. The acting is refreshing and surprising: everyone seems extremely realistic except for good old Roberts, bless him. Once in a while Keaton had to have the Old Schoolers in there too. Although it certainly does not quite reach the heights of THE GENERAL, this is Buster Keaton at his prime!

How can anyone remotely interested in film miss this?!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We Can't Kill Him While He is a Guest in Our House" May 18 2014
By H. Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
Buster Keaton's first feature-length film to tell a complete and continuous story, Our Hospitality was inspired by the Hatfield and McCoy feud of the 1860s-70s. In this film the antagonists are the "Canfields" and the "McKays", and the time period is the early 1800s. The time shift allowed Keaton to use two technological facts of the era, namely the arrival of the earliest railroads and the use of pistols that required reloading after every shot. Keaton's previous film, Three Ages, was produced in 1923, the same year as Our Hospitality. Three Ages was purposely stitched together from three short films so that they could be sold separately if the feature-length version was not successful. In Our Hospitality, Keaton first reached the level of inventiveness, artistic control, and technological boldness that was to mark his films for the next five years, until the sound age rendered almost all of the great silent comedians more or less obsolete. In this brief time Keaton created some of the finest comedies ever produced.

A major and recurring feature of Our Hospitality is an antique railroad train, built specifically for this production. The engine is based on a British design from 1829, while the "carriages" were based on an American example from 1831. You never saw such a railroad, where the tracks can be pulled aside to get around a stubborn burro, or go up and over a fallen tree. The stalwart engineer of this railroad is Joe Keaton, Buster's father. After departing New York, once safely arrived in Kentucky young Willie McKay (Keaton) finds himself in the midst of a decades-old feud. Invited to dinner by a girl he befriended on the train, Willie finds that she, her father and her brothers are Canfields, sworn enemies of the McKays. The men are determined to kill Willie at the earliest opportunity, but "our hospitality" will not permit killing him while he is a guest in their house.

The ensuing chases and adventures involve diving into a deep lake (likely Lake Tahoe), being swept down a swift river (the Truckee River, near Lake Tahoe), and over a waterfall. Although the waterfall is a constructed set, it is still 30 feet high, and Keaton does his strenuous and difficult stunts at this height. The care and thought that went into this film are indicated by the meticulous costumes and sets, as well as the intricate and expensive props. Although Keaton had a long apprenticeship in vaudeville and short films, it appeared to the audiences of 1923 that his genius had exploded onto the screen fully developed in Our Hospitality. Over the next five years the sets in his films got larger, the stunts more outrageous and dangerous, and Keaton's fame soared along with the cost of his films.

Extras in this Kino edition of Our Hospitality include a documentary on the making of the film; and an alternate 49-minute cut entitled simply "Hospitality" which is thought to be a working copy, missing many of the comic elements that were in the longer version. Also included is a 19 minute film entitled "The Iron Mule". Produced in 1925 by Keaton's mentor Fatty Arbuckle, this film utilizes the antique train from Our Hospitality, and Keaton appears in at least one and perhaps as many as four cameos.

(The following paragraph contains observations about Keaton that I attach to all of my reviews of his films.) Charlie Chaplin was the graceful mime, Harold Lloyd was the surprisingly athletic everyman, and Buster Keaton was The Great Stone Face. His expression never varied, but his acrobat's body performed the most astounding knockabout comedy and genuinely dangerous stunts in cinema. Other stars had stunt doubles, but Keaton not only performed his own stunts, he sometimes did the stunts for other actors in his films as well. With the advent of sound Keaton's star faded, but has returned to full brilliance since his death, as restored versions of his films have become available for home video. One of Hollywood's true originals and a genius of motion picture inventiveness, Buster Keaton has secured a place of honor in the history of film, and in the hearts of his growing number of fans.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keaton's First Real Model Feature March 30 2013
By THE BLUEMAHLER - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Our Hospitality (1923) was Buster Keaton`s first true feature film. Keaton's previous "feature," Three Ages (1923) was actually three short films assembled together. There was both an artistic and a commercial reason for this: Three Ages was a parody of the similarly structured D.W. Griffith feature Intolerance (1916). Additionally, Keaton had proved his audience appeal in shorts. Metro Pictures realized the inherent risk of a Keaton feature, and the structure of Three Ages created the option of breaking it down into three shorts. Fortunately for all concerned, Three Ages was a commercial and critical success.

Our Hospitality may be seen, in retrospect, as a model for Keaton's features and a precursor to The General (1926). What separates Keaton from his peers (Chaplin, Lloyd, Langdon) is the way his character integrates into a larger narrative. That is not to say that Keaton's films are not character driven, but the character serves the narrative, not vice versa.

Our Hospitality opens with a prologue of the ongoing feud between the Canfields and the McKays. A young Canfield and the McKay patriarch are killed in a rainy shoot out at night. To avoid the curse of the feud and further bloodshed, the McKay widow takes her infant son, Willie, and sends him north to New York. Meanwhile, the Canfields swear revenge.

Twenty years later, Willie (Keaton) is the personification of a 19th century New York Yankee, adorned in a dandified suit. His mother has since passed away when Willie learns he has inherited his father's estate. Imagining a southern mansion waiting in the wings, Willie hops onto the next train like a salmon returning to its birthplace. Before departing, he is warned by his guardian to stay clear of the Canfields.

The trip south foreshadows the archaic world Willie is about to enter. The train itself is primitive and, naturally, encounters numerous mishaps along the way. Luckily for Willie, the ordeal is made bearable because his fellow passenger is a pretty girl (Natalie Talmadge, the first Mrs. Keaton). Unfortunately, Willie's spawning choice here, unknown to him, is a Canfield daughter.

There are numerous aquatic metaphors. Willie stands apart from his fellows, like a fish out of water, with city clicker suit and queer umbrella. While fishing, he catches a minnow, throws it back, and then gets pulled into the water by a bigger fish. Willie's mansion turns out to be a dilapidated shack and he unwittingly finds himself in the home of his sworn enemies. True to Southern hospitality, the Canfields vow not kill Willie while he is a guest in their home. When Willie learns of this, he naturally tries to remain a permanent houseguest. Almost forced out, Willie is saved from leaving by the sudden appearance of a heavy downpour. A dam blows up, nearly drowning Willie, but it also safely conceals Willie from his predators, the Canfield boys. In a reversal of the fishing line, Willie is tied, by rope, to a Canfield son. Both get hauled into the water. A descent into the rapids brings further peril, as does a waterfall. Willie dangles over the waterfall like that salmon on a line. Yet, it is the waterfall which unites Willie with his girl, allowing him to spawn.

Our Hospitality is replete with inventive sight gags (a tunnel is cut to fit the train, a horse's rear-end is disguised as Willie in drag), but it's really a sophisticated, yet simple retelling of the Romeo and Juliet narrative.

* My review was originally published at 366 weird movies.
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