Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

Given its renown, I had high hopes for this one. It’s amusing, watchable and has that Buster Keaton charm… but it never truly catches fire in the way that some of his other films like The General, Seven Chances or The Navigator do. Even though many other good films suffer in comparison with Buster’s best, I feel this isn’t a film that would convince newcomers to silent film – it’s one for those who crave more Keaton magic. Continue reading

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The Cameraman (1928)

1928? This film feels like quite a step backwards for Buster Keaton. It’s full of cheap gags about people bumping into things, falling over, not being unable to work out revolving doors and other basic slapstick. Silly stuff, that’s usually only mildly amusing like two men getting changed in the same cubicle, losing swimming togs in a public pool and a young man having his brain fried so much by love that he’s unable to function properly. There aren’t really any eye-opening stunts. There is, however, a very sweet, innocent love story. That, and a monkey… Continue reading

Seven Chances (1925)

Yes, this will do. Seven Chances is a finely-crafted comedy that’s amusing throughout, up until… what must be about the most elaborate, madcap, off-the-wall chase sequence you’ll ever see. It’s crazier than anything in Road Runner, and, of course, Buster Keaton did the stunts himself. The man’s a genius and this is one hell of a bloody funny, absolutely mental film. I laughed my arse off! Continue reading

Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Boy meets girl. Boy is a hopeless dreamer. How’s this ever going to work out? Sherlock Jr. is fun and has a lot of charm. It’s a little light on laughs, instead often giving us special effects, stunts and action. While some of these are great and it always remains amusing, it’s the kind of film that doesn’t age well. Special effects and action sequences lose their wow when they’ve been greatly surpassed. Continue reading

The Navigator (1924)

It takes creativity to overcome our limitations. How do you tell a story and keep people laughing for an hour  when you can’t even speak? Some people were very good at this and had it down to a fine art by the time the human voice was heard in films. Buster Keaton’s The General is very arguably the best film ever made. One of the old chestnuts of film making is “show, don’t tell” and it’s as relevant today as it ever was, considering the recent plague of over-blown nonsense like The Lord of the Rings and pretty much everything from Christopher Nolan. The Tom & Jerry and Roadrunner shorts are timeless. WALL-E was a transcendent film until somebody spoke. Up (the Pixar animation) was possibly even better in its short introduction… but it didn’t save its best for last, either. The recent silent comedy The Artist was hugely entertaining. One of the strengths of the original Star Wars films was how they showed you their odd, mysterious world while keeping their traps shut. Continue reading