Seven Chances [Import]
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The reputation of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances rests almost solely on its outrageous finale, a brilliant cascade of comic invention that begins with a church full of blushing brides and builds to a surreal chase of epic proportions. The hapless groom is pursued by a angry mob of women clad in white lace and veils and ends up dodging rolling stones and massive boulders while fleeing an avalanche, never once losing his trademark deadpan. Buster plays a struggling lawyer who will inherit a fortune if he marries by 7 p.m. of his 27th birthday--the very day he receives notice of the potential windfall. When his longtime sweetheart turns him down, he frantically searches for someone--anyone--to wed. While Seven Chances doesn't have the sustained inspiration of his best films, Keaton fills the picture with inventive moments and clever ideas, notably a sustained series of desperate proposals (the "seven chances" of the title) that lead to the climactic swarm of aggressive brides. The biggest weakness is an embarrassing blackface performance that has only become more offensive with the years. Jean Arthur briefly appears as a switchboard operator. The film was remade in 1999 as The Bachelor with Chris O'Donnell. The DVD also features two short films: "Neighbors," the story of young lovers who flirt across the fence that separates their houses and their bickering families, and "The Balloonatic," which despite the presence of a hot air balloon is actually a gag-filled camping comedy. --Sean Axmaker
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The premise for this movie is overly simplistic and rather contrived, but then again, we aren't looking for Machiavellian plots out of most romantic comedies. Buster Keaton finds himself as the recipient of a large inheritance. As one could guess, this windfall comes with a catch: if he is married before seven o'clock on his twenty-seventh birthday, he gets the cash. If he isn't married by that time, then he gets nothing. (Wouldn't we all love to put weird catches like that into our last will and testament? I'm planning to withhold everything from my next-of-kin until they put on a clown suit and run down Interstate-270 during rush-hour shouting the lyrics to Eminem's "Lose Yourself".) Since it turns out that today is the unmarried Keaton's twenty-seventh birthday, he races around desperately trying to tie the knot with someone -- anyone. Naturally, there is one special woman who we all know that he's supposed to end up with, but we have to wait until the very end for the movie to reward us with the anticipated conclusion.
If that plot summary sounds familiar to any reader out there, it's probably because the film was remade recently with Chris O'Donnell in the Buster Keaton role. I haven't seen that version of the movie, and I can only assume that the decision was made because a movie mogul had some sick desire to see the words "Chris O'Donnell" and "Buster Keaton" in the same sentence.Read more ›
The man was a comic genius. Although the story is wildly improabable, you wind up caring about what happens to Buster and his finacee.' The mad chase scene, while a bit drawn-out, shows remarkable comic timing and while it may not make you laugh out loud, you have to admire the work that went into this.
The only drawbacks are the elements of the racism of the era. The finacee's handyman is clearly a White actor in blackface (an odd choice, since there are a couple of other actual Black actors in the film). One rather crude scene has Buster approaching a possible "wife" on a park bench. He retreats when she opens up a newspaper written in Hebrew. A short while later, he admires a young lady from behind and tries to talk to her, only to "hit the road" when she turns to reveal she is Black. But being a film purist, I would not recommend that these offensive scenes be removed from current prints. They should stand to show the mentality of that era.
That aside, it's a great film.
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Without giving away too much of the plot, the rest of the movie involves his unsuccessful pursuit of an immediate bride. He can't seem to get a break, when all of a sudden the news of his inheritance breaks and sends a mob of brides chasing him through the streets & country. It's the classic "Buster-Vs-The Elements" chase that Keaton is so well known for.
"Seven Chances" is an excellent film, although historically it was one of Keaton's least favorites. Keaton was initially perturbed by his producer, Joe Schneck, purchasing the play rights and 'Keaton-izing' it, rather than starting from material originated by Keaton himself. From viewing this film, I am stumped to see any inferiority and consider the end result to signify a very wise and entertaining move on Joe Schneck's part. "Seven Chances" ranks with some of Keaton's best work, including "Streamboat Bill Jr." & "The Navigator".
The 2 shorts included with this DVD are "Neighbors" and "The Balloonatic", both of them absolutely hilarious. "Neighbors" has some of the most inventive high-action scenes in any of the Keaton films, and "The Balloonatic" has some excellent scenes as well.
It's hard to go bad with a Buster Keaton silent movie and "Seven Chances" is no exception. The Kino/David Shepard duo does it again, by preserving a marvelous copy of this excellent film and by packing and distributing it with 2 excellent shorts. You and your family will like this DVD.
The best scenes in "Seven Chances" occur in the last third of the movie, where athletic, speeding Buster is being chased by a thousand angry potential brides, and we get to see the actual houses, shops, cars, gas stations, banks, signs, etc., of 1925 Los Angeles and the Hollywood hills. During the silent era, filmmakers were able to film out of the studio and onto the actual street. With the emergence of sound, outside scenes had to be made using what little acreage the studio had on their back lot, or the use of (phony-looking) rear projection (that sometimes moved way too fast). Another reason the last third of "Seven Chances" is so good is because it contains one of Buster's most famous scenes: being chased down a mountain by an avalanche of gigantic boulders.
"Seven Chances" is a story that was bought by Buster's boss, who expected Bus to mold it to his style of comedy. The script is credited to someone else, but I spotted that Buster probably wrote at least one of the title cards because it contains Keatonese grammar: "It don't matter who I marry".
NEIGHBORS (1920): This is a great 2-reeler that starts off as a Romeo and Juliet kind of story, then veers off into Bus getting into silly situations using blackface and being chased by cops, then goes back to the Romeo and Juliet theme. Some of the funniest (and dangerous) gags of his career are shown here between Bus and his father, played by his real father Joe, like Bus being hung by his toes on a clothesline with Joe accidentally whacking him with a carpet beater that throws Bus into a spin-around. "Neighbors" continues with the title card "that afternoon, the inventor tries his patent fly-swatter". The fly-swatter is just a big board that teeter-totters on the fence that separates the sweethearts' backyards. Weeeeee! ....a disoriented Joe Keaton is flipped into the neighbors' backyard by the fly-swatter, and with this, I noticed that a very funny (and very stiff) dummy was used in the long shot.
THE BALLOONATIC (1923): Buster's first era of his 2-reelers is nearly coming to a close. In a few months, success will demand that he start filming more elaborate features (5-7 reels). This 2nd to last 2-reeler starts off at an amusement park where Buster is trying to pick up girls. He proceeds to a balloon launching where he accidentally is launched with it into the air. After traveling for a while, he is shown idiotically playing hunter (with duck decoys hanging from the balloon) and shoots at a bird that is resting against the side of the balloon. The blast plummets him to the earth, where a series of gags follow with Bus in the wilderness, including the use of lots of animals and a canoe named Minnie-Tee-Hee.
The opening is as close as we will get to the origianl 1925 release. This is a huge improvement overall in comparison to the 'Art of Buster Keaton Collection' that preceeded it. Whether you own a previous DVD release or not this is a must for any comedy, silent film or movie buffs alike.
5 stars all round.