Archive for September 6th, 2012

by Allan Fish

(USA 1922 20m) DVD1/2

Secret Policeman’s First Ball

p  Joseph M.Schenck  d/w  Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline  ph  Elgin Lessley

Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Eddie Cline,

How many people today have really seen any Buster Keaton films?  Of course many have seen the house gag from Steamboat Bill Jnr and the train sequence in The General, but who has actually seen the films in question?  Hopefully, since the advent of DVD and the superb Keaton box-sets in the States, France and eventually the UK, that will be rectified, but his shorts are another matter.  As with Chaplin, though the shorts are available, they are unjustly overlooked.  Critics may rave about them, but rave about them to each other, rarely actually converting anyone to them.  So how can I hope to convert anyone to Keaton’s shorts?  The first thing is to make sure I pick the right one and, in this reviewer’s opinion, there are three all-time great Keaton shorts, all of them from the annus mirabilis that was 1922; The Electric House, The Paleface and, my favourite, Cops.  It certainly isn’t that I like Cops any the more, but that it rather has a truly Keatonian narrative style.  The Electric House is a joyously hilarious piece of pratfall farce exquisitely rehearsed and The Paleface a wonderful tale of Buster’s running into some Indians.  Yet Cops is definitive Buster in that, like his greatest feature The General, it’s an escalation of gags.  Keaton’s most typical works are like cinematic Rossini overtures, building to crescendo upon crescendo with each gag topping the previous one and the pace quickening by the minute.  That much is certainly true of Cops(more…)

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