- Actors: Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy, Wallace Beery, Joe Roberts, Lillian Lawrence
- Directors: Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline
- Writers: Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline, Clyde Bruckman, Jean C. Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell
- Producers: Buster Keaton
- Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Silent, NTSC, Import
- Dubbed: Japanese
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Image Entertainment
- Release Date: Nov. 23 1999
- Run Time: 111 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- ASIN: B0000214GC
Three Ages [Import]
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A brilliant historical satire teeming with inventive flourishes, Buster Keaton's "Three Ages" (1923, 63 min.) is a silent comedy of truly epic proportions. This clever parody of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" follows Buster's hard-luck romantic misadventures throughout world history: from the dawn of man in the Stone Age through the gladiator arenas of Ancient Rome to the city streets of the American Jazz Era. Accompanying "Three Ages" on this DVD are two rarely seen short works: "The Goat" (1921, 25 min.), with Buster mistaken for nefarious gunslinger Dead Eye Dan and caught up in a prolonged slapstick-filled chase, and "My Wife's Relations" (1922, 25 min.), a comedy of domestic turmoil that seems to reflect some of the tensions between Keaton and the Talmadges, his real-life in-laws at the time.
Buster Keaton's feature debut as a director (he shared credit with gagman and longtime collaborator Eddie Kline) spoofs, among other things, D.W. Griffith's Intolerance with a look at the trials of true love through the ages. Buster plays a hapless suitor in three different epochs: a bearskin-wearing, dinosaur-riding caveman in the Stone Age; a meek centurion with a ragtag chariot in ancient Rome; and a jazz age Romeo in Model T and black tie. In each time period, he vies for the object of his affections with burly, barrel-chested Wallace Beery, matching Beery's brawn and underhanded dirty tricks with sheer energy and ingenuity. The diminutive deadpan comic is hilarious under a shaggy fright wig and cartoon club as a thoroughly modern caveman, a dwarf among giants at the mercy of romantic Darwinism, but the more inventive sequences belong to the later ages. The rousing chariot race of the Roman segment is topped by a gymnastic chase through dungeons and throne rooms, and the modern section is capped by a mad flight from the police while he rushes to rescue his girl. Three Ages lacks the dramatic unity and sustained creativity of his later masterpieces, but the inventive gas and clever crosscutting turns what could be three individual shorts into an interactive live-action cartoon. Also included are "The Goat," a frantic "mistaken identity" knockabout comedy, and "My Wife's Relations," in which Buster finds himself accidentally married into a family of bullying Irish Catholics. --Sean Axmaker
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In the historical time periods, much of the humor is derived from having anachronisms in the form of modern conveniences: the Caveman Keaton plays golf with a huge rock club, and the Roman Keaton has a sundial watch. It's a pity that these sort of gags would be endlessly ripped off in later films, as it does take a little of the shine off them here. Still, what may not seem fresh anymore nonetheless remains amusing.
I liked this movie even though there isn't too much in the way of Keaton's noted physical comedy. There are a few jokes that rely on him bouncing in and out of things, but to a far lesser extent than usual. There are some impressively large-scale sequences (I'm thinking of the rock battle, the chariot race, and the football game) that had me grinning. This is a film that is more amusing than it is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Also included are two short films: THE GOAT and MY WIFE'S RELATIONS.
THE GOAT contains two staples of the short films of this era. Jokes about being hungry, and people running away from the police as fast as they can. Keaton finds himself in what could almost be described as a preview for another short film he would complete the following year, COPS. In both films, Keaton begins by minding his own business, but then accidentally running afoul of the police. He must run quickly to avoid arrest, while devising neat ways of eluding his would-be captors. He eventually gets confused for the infamous escaped criminal, Dead Shot Dan, and finds himself wanted, dead or alive. Misdirection and near misses are the order of the day, as Buster becomes increasingly frantic in his escape attempts. This is really my favorite kind of Buster Keaton short film: Buster running frantically through city streets, using every kind of transportation he can to get away from someone.
In MY WIFE'S RELATIONS, Keaton finds himself (after a mix-up at City Hall) married to an enormous Irish-Catholic woman and her enormous Irish-Catholic family. There isn't too much to say about this one. Keaton, a WASP, tries to survive in an immigrant/ethnic family. Naturally, by the end of the twenty minutes, he's engaged in a pitched battle against an outraged group of people he hadn't even met at the beginning. The back of the DVD casing claims this film "reflects some of the tensions between Keaton and the Talmadges, his real-life in-laws", which is a bizarre claim (and one I've seen contradicted). Did Keaton's in-laws really pelt him with bricks, and would he exit their house by wrapping up in a carpet and rolling down the stairs?
The THREE AGES DVD contains three films, which at their worst are merely amusing, and at their best are hilarious. THE GOAT is by far the best that this has to offer, but THREE AGES and MY WIFE'S RELATIONS definitely have their moments. It's a pity that the picture quality isn't terrific, but when the material is over eighty years old, one can't afford to be picky.
Three Ages is a tad jarring at first, because the three tales of romance mix ups criscross between the Flinstonic era (haha), Ancient Rome, and the Roaring 20s. Even if you don't usually like romatic comedy, the Bus man's personality and brilliant comic timing will make you smile and laugh. I'm not really sure if our man is actually being dragged by an elephant in the caveman scenes, but the lion he deals with in the Roman segment is obviously fake. The pre-Lost world animated segments of the Bus man riding the dinosaur is impressing and amusing even for modern audiences.
In either case, while this isn't exactly a knee-slapper, it's certainly an amusing and pleasant way to spend an hour and a half, as well as the shorts.
THE GOAT IS BUSTER'S BEST SHORT and maybe the funniest short EVER made. Buster is mistaken for a killer "Dead Eye Dan". Big Joe Roberts plays the heavy.
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