- Actors: Buster Keaton, William H. Crane, Irving Cummings, Edward Jobson, Jack Livingston
- Directors: Herbert Blach, Herbert Blaché, Winchell Smith
- Producers: Winchell Smith, John L. Golden, Marcus Loew
- Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Silent, NTSC, Import
- Subtitles: English
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Kino Video
- Release Date: Nov. 20 2001
- Run Time: 118 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- ASIN: 6305701245
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The Saphead [Import]
More than just a silent comedian known for his pratfalls and clever mimicry, Buster Keaton was an unqualified genius of the American cinema. This DVD presents three of his early works, displaying his extraordinary talents as actor and filmmaker alike. Keaton stars in "The Saphead" (1920, 78 min.) as Bertie Van Alstyne, the spoiled son of a powerful Wall Street financier. Unable to escape the wealth and comfort that are foisted upon him, he pursues individuality in a series of comic misadventures in the speakeasies of New York, the altar of matrimony and even the floor of the American Stock Exchange. "The High Sign" (1921, 21 min.) finds Buster unwittingly involved in a radical secret society known as the Blinking Buzzards, stumbling from assassin to bodyguard in a romantic adventure that climaxes in a mind-boggling romp through a booby-trapped mansion. Dreams of domesticity are systematically satirized and ultimately demolished in "One Week" (1921, 19 min.), Keaton's bittersweet parable of one couple's unflagging determination to build a prefabricated honeymoon cottage.
Before Buster Keaton made his name as one of the silent cinema's most accomplished and creative comics, he starred in this conventional but cute comedy based on the Broadway play The New Henrietta (previously made into the Douglas Fairbanks vehicle The Lamb). Keaton plays the spoiled son of a millionaire unjustly accused of scandalous behavior and tossed into a bustling world that he's completely unprepared for. Apart from the energetic finale, in which he leaps, slides, and wrestles with Wall Street lions on the stock exchange floor, Keaton is given little opportunity for comic gymnastics and the comedy stays safe and conventional. The Saphead is a completely genial and entertaining film carried by Keaton's sweet charm and plucky naiveté and it made him a star, but it's ultimately a footnote to a career that later blossomed in creative inspiration. Keaton revived the figure of the clueless social dandy with his self-directed features The Navigator and Battling Butler. Also featured are Keaton's first two solo shorts: "The High Sign," a knockabout lark in which Keaton infiltrates a secret society of criminals, and "One Week," an inspired gem with newlywed Buster mangling a do-it-yourself house. --Sean Axmaker
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"The High Sign" is one of my favourite Keaton shorts. Its just so full of comedy, and genious at the same time. The parts in the house with all of the little secret escape bits is just great. He is making out he is a perfect shot with the gun (when he actually always shoots way off target) and is made a member of "The Blinking Buzzards". Right before this, he is hired by this man to be his body guard. Unfortunately for Buster, the "Blinking Buzzards" happen to want him to kill this same guy who has just asked him to protect him from these men. So which does he choose?.....
"One Week" is maybe my favourite of all three on this disc. Buster gets married, and is given a "build it yourself" kind of house for him and his new wife to live in. It takes him one whole week to build, and its not perfect. There is this big storm and it twirls the house around, and around until it is nearly wrecked. But then, they find out they have made the house on the wrong lot. So they have to move it. It gets stuck on a train track and....
All three of the films here, have great musical scores. I especially like the one for "The Saphead". Its in 5.1 sound too. The other two, "High Sign" and "One Week" are in mono. Along with this, they all have very decent prints too. Another great release to DVD from Kino, who continue to give us the great, great silent movies on decent DVD releases.
The movie has a few major flaws. The most annoying is the fact that Keaton (although the star) doesn't have enough screen time, and the other characters are one-dimensional and simply not interesting. The script is adapted from a play by the name of THE NEW HENRIETTA, and I can only hope that the material was funnier on the stage, because it certainly didn't translate well to the screen. The story takes too long to set itself up, the plot isn't terribly inspired, and, worst of all, most of the jokes aren't all that funny. Keaton does his best with what he has to work with, but, truthfully, there isn't much to this. He livens things up a bit on a handful of occasions, but for the most part, he is overwhelmed by the leaden script.
Also included on the DVD are two short movies. Unlike the main feature, these two were co-written and co-directed by Buster Keaton himself. The difference couldn't be any more staggering. Give the man some creative control, and he turns out material a thousand times better. While the main feature is slow, ponderous and dull, these two shorts are fast-paced and hilarious.
The first short film is THE HIGH SIGN. By cheating his way through at a shooting gallery, Buster finds himself employed as both a bodyguard and a hit man. The movie culminates in a large house with multiple revolving walls and trapdoors. Buster and company leap through them with reckless abandon. I'm quite torn by watching this. Part of me wants to admire the craftsmanship and the effort that went into designing the physical gags and the intricate set. The other part of me just wants to be engulfed by the sheer entertainment.
The second short on the disc, ONE WEEK, starts with a fun gag involving Buster Keaton and his new bride attempting to exit one car and enter another -- while both automobiles are still moving. In any case, the newlyweds have been given a house as a wedding-gift. But there's one catch. The "house" is a kit, a do-it-yourself construction job. Thanks to some sabotage from the wife's ex, Buster builds himself a bizarre structure, with several features not found in ordinary homes. Anyone who knows anything about Buster Keaton's style of comedy should salivate at the thought of his baffled but determined character given over to that premise. And the result here is wonderful. The production crew built a giant house prop worthy of Keaton's comedy, and there's a fun gag that involves the moving of an unwieldy piano that rivals the problems that beset Laurel and Hardy in their Oscar-winning short film THE MUSIC BOX.
The picture quality is quite good considering that the material is over eighty years old. The DVD cover claims that the soundtracks are a modern recreation of the original scores, and while I can't independently verify that, it seems appropriate enough. I'm hesitant as to whether I should really recommend this DVD given that I was so utterly bored by the main feature. The two extras (of about twenty minutes each) are worthy of purchase though. Perhaps I should say that this disc will mainly be of interest to Buster Keaton fans. People looking for a solid introduction to the man's work should probably choose one of the other entries in the Art Of Buster Keaton DVD series.
ONE WEEK is Buster's first short (that was released) and it a great one. Buster and his wife build a house and the results are less than perfect.
THE HIGH SIGN is the first Buster short he produced. It is another great one. There are some very funny scenes in the shooting gallery. The High Sign also contains a rare moment wher Buster gives the high sign to the viewer.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
If you like to see Buster doing his acrobatics most of the little amount is in one sequence near the end.
It just isn't as funny as some of Keaton's other work.