- Actors: Buster Keaton, Anne Cornwall, Flora Bramley, Harold Goodwin, Snitz Edwards
- Directors: Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline, James W. Horne, Malcolm St. Clair
- Writers: Buster Keaton, Carl Harbaugh, Edward F. Cline, Bryan Foy
- Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Silent, NTSC
- Language: English
- Dubbed: Japanese
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Kino Lorber films
- Release Date: June 11 2007
- Run Time: 132 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00003ETHH
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #54,323 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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Ronald, the klutzy high-school brain played by Buster Keaton in College, is an inspired variation on the insulated millionaire playboys of earlier films. This bookish mama's boy who couldn't throw a fit, let alone a football, vows to become a college athlete to win the heart of the campus sweetheart. Of course in this path lies disaster, and his follies in track and field (the flyweight tries to throw the hammer and winds up flinging himself) only increase when he's made coxswain of the rowing team. Keaton's mix of energetic earnestness and flailing incompetence make his athletic tryout the film highlight, but in classic Keaton fashion Mr. Two Left Feet becomes the world's greatest athlete to save his sweetie from a bullying muscle-bound brute, mastering every event he so hilariously botched earlier in a decathlon dash to the rescue. This episodic comedy is more like his early shorts than his best features, lacking the narrative backbone that supports such masterpieces as The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr., but it's full of inspired physical comedy and Keaton's unique brand of gymnastic genius. Also featured are three short films: The Haunted House, with bank teller Buster matching wits against robbers in a gadget-filled hideout; the recently rediscovered Hard Luck, which recounts Buster's unsuccessful efforts to end it all (the missing conclusion is reconstructed from stills); and The Blacksmith, where Buster disastrously attempts to apply assembly line efficiency to a village smithy. --Sean Axmaker
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The basic story is that Keaton is a High School graduate (yeah, everyone looks about twice as old as the characters they're playing) who ridicules athletics during his valedictorian speech. But desperate to win back the heart of his shallow girlfriend, he must excel at some sporting event. He goes with her to college (along with the aged High School athlete) determined to prove his worth.
I know we're expected to take it as given that Keaton is in love with his sweetheart. Yet, was there anyone in the audience who didn't want to tell him to run a mile when she came up with her "learn sports or else!" ultimatum? The gags involving Keaton's unsuccessful attempts to participate in baseball, track and field, etc are occasionally fun, but are usually quite predictable. I laughed a few times during the film, which had more to do with the fact that Keaton's body language could make almost anything funny, not that the script had come up with anything particularly strong.
Since the main feature only runs for a few minutes over an hour, there are also three short films to pad out the DVD. First up is THE ELECTRIC HOUSE where Keaton is mistaken for an electrical engineer. And like all electrical engineers of the 1920s, he is offered a job installing complicated devices in the house of a rich, fat guy. You know the sort of thing on offer here: escalators in the house, a pool table that racks itself, an automatic food server. Naturally, all of these futuristic devices are just itching to break down in a spectacular and painful manner. This short may feel a little formulaic (we see a gadget, we see it break down, we see another gadget, we see it break down, repeat and lather), but it's quite entertaining. The modern contraptions are inventive and clever.
The second short is HARD LUCK, which may hold the distinction of being the most bizarre short film I've ever seen. Keaton attempts suicide multiple times, begins a hunt for armadillos, gets involved in a Western-style shoot-out, and finally falls through the center of the Earth. I told you it was strange. The version on here is a reconstruction of the best surviving footage, and it's a pity that the film isn't complete, because I thought it was fantastic. A few of the gags seem a bit odd, but I'm willing to put that down to the missing footage (a disclaimer warns the viewer of this at the beginning). The film moves at such a frantic rate that it's impossible to guess where it's going to go next.
The third and final short film on the disc is THE BLACKSMITH, which features Keaton working as a blacksmith's lackey, destroying cars under the guise of fixing them. Following the pattern that Keaton often used, he manages to slowly wreck several expensive items, finally earning the wrath of the secondary characters. This isn't the funniest Keaton short, but it has a handful of hilarious set pieces.
This DVD release will probably be most appealing to Keaton enthusiasts. Casual fans may want to look elsewhere, as the main feature here is comparatively weak. On the other hand, it is great to have the three short films, since they are of much higher quality and help to redress the balance. As a whole, this probably isn't a great purchase, but it isn't a bad one either.
There's more to this movie than gags, though. The final 30 seconds give full vent to Keaton's deep pessimism about the human condition. It is perhaps the blackest sequence in all of cinema; certainly, after such a light comedy, it comes like punch in the stomach.
Kino does its usual fine job with the video transfer and extras. This disk is a must-have for any fan of silent comedy.
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This film reminded me a lot of Harold Lloyd's "The Freshman," in which Harold goes out for sports in college to impress a girl - same story - and made two years earlier. I am partial to Lloyd's version but I enjoyed this, too.
Keaton's version starts off with the high school graduation ceremony. "Ronald" (Keaton), the scholar of the class, gives a speech denouncing athletics as a total waste of time and promoting being a bookworm over anything else. This speech is so offensive to the crowd that everyone leaves but Keaton's mom, who applauds. By the way, all the high school graduates look between 25-35 years of age. These are the oldest-looking high school seniors in history!!
Anyway, a girl Buster is trying to impress "Mary Haynes" (Anne Cornwall), was among those not impressed with his snobby "scholar" speech. She'd rather have an athletic man. So, upon entering college, "Ronald" tries a variety of sports, to gain the approval of the girl. (Does this theme sound familiar, not just in the Lloyd film but so many of Keaton's other films?)
He attempts to play baseball but is so clueless he puts on all the catcher's equipment to play third base. Suffice to say, after a number of plays ensue, it's more than evident that "Ronald" is a little bit out of his element! Next, he goes out for track, but gets discouraged when two little kids speed by him on the track. Throwing the discus and javelin are not good ideas, either. His high-jumping routine is very funny. He isn't bad in the hurdles, however. Obviously, pole vaulting doesn't work and the hammer throw almost gets his teammates killed, so he's told to leave.
He gets a call from the Dean's office. The Dean, who liked him from the start because he preferred studies over sports, is distressed because Buster's grades are bad. Buster explains his problems and the Dean (played by the always-funny Snitz Edwards) sympathizes because, being a wimpy little guy, he same problem years ago with a woman he liked. So, as a favor, Dean Edwards orders the rowing coach to install Buster as the coxswain of the team. The coach and the crew don't want this, as "Little Lord Fauntleroy" or "Mama's Boy" and other names he's called, has a reputation already at college as an athletic loser. They try to sabotage his attempt at being part of their crew, but he turns the tables. The funniest scene is when the new coxswain literally becomes the boat's rudder.
The neatest part of the film is the ending, which is usually the case in silent comedies. Suffice to say that Buster puts all of his athletic talents, which were not effective on the sports fields, to good use to get the girl. It's a memorable ending.
I saw this as part of the big DVD set of "The Art Of Buster Keaton." The transfers in all of them are magnificent.
"On the sunkist slopes of the Pacific where land and water meet--California" reads the opening title card. Rain pelts Union High School auditorium as people huddle under newspapers and umbrellas. The opening 10 minute-plus scene depicts Buster's high school graduation day "where the next step is either to go to college or go to work." Buster arrives at graduation with his mother. Although Ronald has brought an umbrella, his cheap $15 suit shrinks up on him as that he looks ridiculous. This gag and his problems closing an umbrella gag are clever and cute. This is the most non-traditional graduation because nobody wears caps and gowns. They had to otherwise everybody would have looked the same and we would never have seen Buster's suit shrink. All in all, this is the most thought out and calculated sequence in "College."
Mary Haynes--the heroine--has a memorable introduction. The male students remove several coats that they had generously allowed her to bundle up in to avoid getting drenched. She is described as "the winner of every popular contest in which the boys were allowed to vote. When she receives his diploma, the principal predicts that she will fit in at Clayton College as she did at Union High School. Star athlete Jeff Brown (Harold Goodwin) appears amid fanfare. He is described "as a man who loved exercise so much that he has made many a girl walk home." When the principal hands Jeff his diploma, he notes that Jeff took seven years to earn it. Lastly, the principal congratulates Buster for being "the most brilliant scholar." Of course, everybody laughs at Buster because his suit has shrunken so much that the buttons on his vest have popped off and his sleeves have retreated virtually to his elbows.
Buster alienates everybody at graduation with his anti-athletic speech. As the top student, he receives an honor medal. "The student who wastes his time on athletics rather than study show only ignorance." His words anger Jeff and the other fellows. "Future generations depend upon brains and not upon jumping the discus or hurdling the javelin." Mary (Anne Cornwall) criticizes Ronald. "When you change your mind about athletics then I'll change my mind about you." She rides away with Jeff.
Mary enters Clayton College. Neither Ronald nor his mother can afford the tuition, so Ronald looks for a job so he can work his way through school. He gets a temporary job as a soda jerk clerk. He carries a picture of Mary around in his suitcase and boards in the dormitory. The soda clerk job doesn't last long because Ronald is afraid that Mary will see him in such a lowly job and ridicule him so he quits.
Dean Edwards (Snitz Edwards) congratulates Ronald about his maturity. He praises him, "A boy like you can make this athlete infested college a seat of learning once more." Eventually, Ronald quits his soda jerk job when Mary enters the shop. Ronald decides he wants to take a try at sports. Ronald gets on the baseball team and his idiotic antics result in his team losing. Jeff and some guys catch him walking home from the disastrous baseball game and toss him on a blanket in the air. He sails so high that he can see an old battle axe dressing through her balcony window. Infuriated, she storms onto the balcony and swats at him with an umbrella. More umbrella buffoonery! He seizes the umbrella and floats up and down until he tears down a balcony and brings down the battle axe on it.
Ronald tries out for track and other related athletics and again fails miserably. Pay close attention to these shenanigans because they play an important part in the conclusion. Looking for work, Buster masquerades as an African-American in a restaurant. The black paint on his face smears off when he is serving Jeff and Mary on a date. When the blacks discover that he's an imposter, they run him off. Eventually, the Dean summons our hero to his office and complains about Ronald's failing grades. "I took up athletics because the girl I love thinks I'm a weakling," Buster explains in his own defense. The Dean requests that the rowing coach make Buster the coxswain on the rowboat team. The coach, however, has other ideas and he slips Buster a mickey. Things don't work out for the coach and the person intended to replace Buster gulps the potion. The photography for the boat rowing race is incredibly good. One of the boats has the semi-profane name 'Damfino.' This too must have been pretty risqué for its day.
Ultimately, Jeff shows his true antagonistic colors when he locks Mary in her dorm room and stays with her. She warns him that his being caught in her room will mean expulsion for both of them. Jeff points out that he has been expelled already. Mary calls Ronald for help and he responds with alacrity. The last nine minutes of "College" portray Ronald as an entirely different kind of guy and the ending is truly odd. Again, "College" is not top-notch Keaton, but it is worth watching and the DVD is available in a Kino International print on Genius Entertainment for under a dollar in some stores.