Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp (director)
06 March 2020 (released)
05 April 2020
This second volume of BUSTER KEATON: 3 Films once again offers plenty of jaw-dropping slapstick routines and gags, with the occasional pathos thrown in. During each of the three adventures our hapless hero finds himself in the thick of it though of course, always manages to get out of it in the end.
The Navigator (1924, dir. Buster Keaton / Donald Crisp):
In this seafaring adventure, Buster plays the wealthy Rollo Treadway who, despite being in a position to propose to a high society dame of his choice, proposes to his neighbour Betsy O’Brien (Kathryn McGuire) who happens to live across the street. That said, Betsy’s father (Frederick Vroom) isn’t exactly broke either – far from it, he’s a rich businessman who has just sold a ship, The Navigator, to a small country at war. Being overtly optimistic that Betsy will accept his proposal, Rollo has already sent his servant to book a honeymoon sea-cruise bound for Honolulu but then the unthinkable happens: Betsy delivers a firm ‘No’! Unfazed, Rollo decides to go on the trip anyway, on his own. Due to pier number 12 (the pier number from which Rollos’ ship sails is Nr. 2) being partly covered by an open gate, Rollo boards the ship thinking it will take him to Honolulu… alas, it’s the Navigator. Around the same time Betsy’s father, also on the pier, is captured by saboteurs and held ashore. When Betsy hears her father’s cries she assumes he’s on the Navigator and rushes to his aid but after the ship sets sail quickly realises that the only other passenger on board is in fact Rollo… Thus begins an adventure on the high sea which forces them to actually cook (until now they both had servants) and generally try to make the best of the situation. When they spot a navy ship they think rescue has come at last but Rollo manages to hoist a wrong flag (indicating the Navigator is under quarantine) and the navy ship hastily turns away. Some time later the pair spot a tropical island but the Navigator grounds on a rock and is damaged. While Rollo slips into a deep-sea diving suit trying to fix the leak he has to fight off swordfish and other sea creatures while Betsy is taken captive by the natives… Will there be a happy end for Betsy and Rollo? You betcha, and in more ways than just one! After the disappointing box office rates of Keaton’s previous adventure SHERLOCK JR. this seafaring caper turned out to be the biggest hit of his entire career.
Seven Chances (1925, dir. B. Keaton):
In this rip-roaring caper Keaton slips into the part of Jimmy Shannon, a junior partner in a brokerage firm on the brink of financial ruin. With all of this going on, Jimmy’s lawyer (Snitz Edwards, a man who made Keaton look tall) informs him of his late grandfather’s will and its terms: Jimmy is about to inherit 7 Million bucks on condition he is married by 7pm on his 27th birthday – which, how could it be otherwise, happens to be that very same day! In order to save the brokerage firm from utter ruin and possibly criminal charges, Jimmy proposes straight away to his sweetheart Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer) who initially accepts all too happily. But when Jimmy explains to her as to why he needs to get married his skills of tact and diplomacy temporarily depart him… and Mary feels that Jimmy’s marriage proposal may not be sincere. Angrily, she does a U-turn on her acceptance and walks away angrily. Now the search is on for a bride – any bride – willing to marry Jimmy by 7pm but that’s much more difficult than it seems. Even the seven women he happens to know from his club’s dining room turn him down, perhaps understandably. As a final resort Jimmy places an ad in the local newspaper (must have been a late edition!) and suddenly finds himself besieged by all sorts of ladies willing to tie the knot with the would-be-millionaire, leading to a wild chase across town and fields which is only broken up when Jimmy sets an avalanche of gigantic rolling stones in motion. Meanwhile, Mary has a change of heart and sends her Hired Hand to fetch Jimmy who races to his sweetheart’s house, all the while trying to shake off a female mob. When he arrives in the Jones’ household Mary, his business partner Billy Meekin and his lawyer are already waiting but he appears to be one minute too late (who exactly gives a damn about that?). While his sweetheart is willing to marry him ‘poor’ it’s now Jimmy who must refuse on the grounds that professional disgrace is imminent, seeing how he cannot help his business partner (and himself) out of their debts. Just as all seems lost, the church clock strikes seven… ‘Seven Chances’ is a fast-paced caper with truly impressive stunts carried out at breakneck speed and proof that a ‘simple’ plot line can be padded out into a series of escalating set-pieces.
Battling Butler (1926, dir. B. Keaton):
In this boxing caper, Keaton is Alfred Butler, a rich and utterly spoilt dandy whose dad sends him on a hunting- and fishing trip to make a ‘proper man’ out of him. As expected, Alfred fails miserably (cue for shooting at rubber ducks), however, at least a chance encounter with a pretty mountain girl (Sally O’Neil) sets matters of the heart racing. His ever dutiful and quick thinking valet (Snitz Edwards again) goes to the mountain girl's home and informs her that Alfred wants to marry her. Her stoutly built father and brother (Walter James and Budd Fine respectively) put their feet down: “That jellyfish couldn't even look after himself”. Quick as a flash the valet notices in the newspaper that a man called Battling Butler (Francis McDonald) is fighting for the World Boxing Championship and informs the girl’s father and brother that ‘Battling Butler’ is in fact no other than his master Alfred. Much impressed they pay Alfred a visit and inform him he'd better be on the next train as the fight takes place the next day. Now it is not expected that the real Battling Butler (the challenger) will win, meaning that a defeated but courageous Alfred can return and still marry his sweetheart. Seated at ringside Alfred and his valet witness a shock result when, after taking a terrible hiding, Battling Butler knocks out his rival with one punch! They return to the mountain where Alfred intends to tell his girl the truth but is mistaken for the real Battling Butler who also happens to be on the same train. Alfred is greeted by a large welcoming committee as well as his 'new family to be'. The wedding takes place immediately but no time for a honeymoon, as now he has to take on the notorious ‘Alabama Murderer’ who had already challenged the real Battling Butler. Alfred and his valet are forced to continue the pretence and thus travel to the location where the big fight is to take place. Before his departure Alfred instructs his new wife NOT to follow them but will she listen? In yet another misunderstanding the real 'Battling Alfred' gives his wife a black eye thinking she's flirting with Alfred (although it was the 1920's domestic violence is hardly an excuse). Will Alfred, who has never boxed in his entire life, have to face the ‘Alabama Murderer’?
All three Blue-ray films have received a brand-new 4K restoration, with partially tinted sequences. 3000 copies only come with a Limited Edition Hardbound Slipcase plus a Limited Edition 60-page collector’s book while each disc offers exciting bonus material including short film, documentaries, video essays and audio interviews.