Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 5 Blu-ray Review


  • Director ‏ : ‎ Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline, John Blystone
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ Cohen Film Collection
  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.33:1
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ USA
  • Number of discs ‏ : ‎ 1
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Blu-ray
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 2 hours and 27 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ November 7, 2023


         Even the worst of Buster Keaton’s content surpasses most of the slapstick seen in modern cinema, partially because of his unwavering commitment to the gags. Sometimes this meant Keaton would literally put his life on the line to capture a moment on film, many of which have remained timeless long after the actor has passed. Other times, Keaton’s commitment was simply to maintain the lack of facial expression he was best known for, even resulting in the nickname ‘The Great Stone Face.’ With the fifth volume of the Cohen Film Collection’s Buster Keaton Collection, it is clear that they included the comedic star’s most beloved classics in the previous releases, though there are some bold experimentations in the two films chosen for the latest installment.


        Three Ages (1923) would have had much clearer relevance for audience members of the time, as it was a direct parody of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), a massively popular epic film combining four parallel storylines taking place in different centuries. As the title implies, Keaton’s comedic take on one of the most influential films of the era only tackles three concurrent storylines: the first takes place in prehistoric times, the second in Ancient Rome, and the third is a more traditional narrative set in modern times of the Roaring Twenties. Each of these three storylines share narrative parallels separated only by the specifics of the time periods, with Keaton starring as a love-struck and likeable loser in each.


        Three Ages was the first feature Keaton had complete control over, writing, directing, producing, and starring in the film himself. After showing his success with short films, Keaton essentially made three similar short films set in different times, and combined them for this experimental parody of Griffith’s own experimentation. While there is some pleasure to be found in the repurposing of similar gags into different time periods, there is also an element of repetition to this film which I had trouble with. Also, despite a new restoration of the film by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, this is one of the worst quality presentations released in the multiple volumes of The Buster Keaton Collection. This may have been the best quality print available, but some of the sequences are very degraded and it becomes difficult to fully enjoy the intended spectacle.


        The second film in the collection is Our Hospitality (1923), another feature film making use of a period setting, albeit with a much more traditional narrative. Co-directed by John G. Blystone, Our Hospitality contains a darkly comedic story which satirizes the real-life Hatfield and McCoy feud, only slightly changing the names to the Canfields and McKays. Keaton stars as Willie McKay, a young man who discovers he has inherited his father’s estate, returning the Southern property for the first time since childhood. While Willie meets a young woman named Virginia Canfield (Natalie Talmadge) on his journey, he becomes enamored only to discover she belongs to the family his ancestors have long feuded with.


        The dark premise of Our Hospitality includes multiple attempts on Willie’s life, which provides perfect opportunity for Keaton to utilize his precise comedic timing and deadpan expression. It is also a film in no rush to get to the gags, taking the time instead to set up the storyline. For the patient viewers, Our Hospitality has plenty of rewards, though some may find the fast pace of his short films more enjoyable. There are also some of Keaton’s most impressive stunts worked into the film’s climax, including one over the edge of a waterfall that still makes my head spin. Although released just after Three Ages, thankfully the print of Our Hospitality restored by the Cineteca di Bologna appears to have been in better shape to begin with.


        The Blu-ray release of the two Keaton classics doesn’t come with any extras.


Entertainment Value:  8.5/10

Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

Historical Significance:  10/10

Special Features: 0/10

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