Eureka Entertainment’s latest addition to their Masters of Cinema series, debuting on Blu-Ray in brand-new 4K restorations, is a special limited edition hardbound box set comprising of Sherlock Jr. (1924), The General (1926) and Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928). This release is the first time any of these classics have been available on Blu-Ray anywhere in the world – and it is certainly highly recommended to anyone who wants to retrace the influences on the blockbusters of today.
Each movie is a master-class in storytelling and simplicity and Keaton’s incomparable portrayal of the little man against Establishment and nature works to perfection. Woody Allen might well have been influenced as well by Sherlock Jr. when he conceived The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985), which is the flipside of a story involving a film projectionist who is framed for the theft of a watch and in a wild dream ends up becoming the lead detective in the film he is showing.
The General sees Keaton at the heart of the American Civil War as an army reject resigned to fate on the railways as an engineer, but when the enemy steals his train, he has to take matters into his own hands.
The third film, Steamboat Bill Jr. sees Keaton as a young man reunited with his father, who is out to outwit his arch rival, who is out to decommission his paddle steamer, clearly at the end of its days. His father is also not too happy with the fact his son is in love with his rival’s daughter.
Overall, the films follow the same basic plot template of a seemingly geeky man out to triumph in the face of adversity and at nearly a century old, the brand-new restorations make these films as fresh as they were on their original release.
The joy of the experience is seeing the amazing physical effects and stunts, particularly during the chase and cyclone sequences in The General and Steamboat Bill Jr. - the latter containing the immortal scene with the house front coming down on Keaton – a scene that was recently paid homage to in part with the pre-credit sequence of the James Bond film, Spectre (2015).
Composer Carl Davis, who has done many a score for revived silent films, contributes the exquisite themes and tones to these two films.
At a time when many comedies in recent years are falling flat and are more reliant of profanity and gross-out gags, Buster Keaton: 3 Films is a welcome reflection on the true potential of what cinematic comedy can reveal to the audience.
Still as unforgettable as ever.
BUSTER KEATON: 3 FILMS / CERT: U / DIRECTORS: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: BUSTER KEATON, KATHRYN MCGUIRE, MARION MACK, ERNEST TORRENCE / RELEASE DATE: 6TH NOVEMBER