Monday, November 14, 2005

The Triumph of Buster Keaton

The comedian may not be obscure, but the material is! Laughsmith Entertainment’s Industrial Strength Keaton double DVD set features a remarkable assortment of odds and ends from Buster’s career, running the gamut from rare silent footage to newly discovered industrial films. To suggest this set is for Keaton completests rather misses the point and infers that this footage is somehow best left to fanatics with undemanding tastes. Although generally accepted to have been at his prime during the silent era, Buster Keaton’s career was no simple Rise and Fall story, and he continued to produce excellent, and oftentimes brilliant, work until his death in 1966. Even at the lowest point in his life, just following his ouster from MGM in 1933, he was capable of a characteristically skilled and energetic performance in the little-seen Le Roi Des Champs-Élysées. While Buster was largely helpless when working for factories like MGM and the shorts department at Columbia, he thrived during the 50s and early 60s, a period that should could be considered his personal Renaissance. Freed from the studio grind and given a great degree of creative freedom by younger producers who recognized, and were appreciative of, Keaton’s status as a comedy mastermind, Buster was able to spend the last two decades of his life in front of the cameras, doing what he did best.

The release date has been moved ahead at least once, but Industrial Strength Keaton is supposed to be available in January, 2006. Personally, I can’t wait to finally see An Old Spanish Custom and The Triumph of Lester Snapwell.. and seeing Buster Keaton and Ed Wynn together on the same stage will probably make my head explode! I only wish Laughsmith could have thrown a few shorts from Buster’s series at Educational into the mix, but if there’s a market for Industrial Strength Keaton, it’s only a matter of time before someone releases that material as well.

Damn.. I love the cover, too! I CAN'T WAIT, I TELLS YA!!!!

DVD FEATURES

FEATURE FILMS

The Playhouse (1921) B&W / Silent
* Audio commentary track
Digitally remastered and restored version of one of Keaton’s greatest shorts. New score from The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra.

Character Studies (Mid-1920s) B&W
* Audio commentary track
Recently discovered short with famed magician Carter DeHaven and featuring cameos by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Jackie Coogan, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Rudolph Valentino.

Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931) B&W / sound feature
* Audio commentary track
* Keaton's Italian villa still gallery
Digitally remastered and restored feature. Definitive version.

PROMOTIONAL FILMS

Seein' Stars (1922) B&W / sound

The Voice of Hollywood #10 (1929) B&W / sound

Hollywood on Parade #A-6 (1933) B&W / sound

An Old Spanish Custom (1935) B&W / sound
* Audio commentary track
* Original press book

LIVE TELEVISION

The Butcher Boy / Can of Molasses Sketch
* The Butcher Boy (1917) B&W / Silent clip w/ Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
* The Ed Wynn Show (1949) B&W / Sound w/ Ed Wynn
* You Asked For It (1957) B&W / Sound w/ Eddie Gribbon
* Unknown TV appearance (1950s) B&W / Sound w/ Billy Gilbert

"The Martha Raye Show" (1956) B&W / Sound
* The Concert
Buster Keaton and Martha Raye recreate a sketch originally used in the classic Charlie Chaplin feature Limelight.

"Circus Time" (1956)

COMMERCIALS

Alka Seltzer (1958) [5 spots]

Northwest Orient Airlines (1958)

Simon Pure Beer (1958) [6 spots]

Shamrock Oil / Outtakes (1959)
* Audio commentary track
* Director’s interview track

Milky Way (1961)

Pure Oil (1965)

Country Club Malt Liquor (1958) [3 spots]

Ford Econoline (1963)

Jeep - Lessons in Living (1960)
* Only surviving complete Jeep commercial
* Recently discovered fragments from previously undocumented Jeep commercials.

Pure Oil (1965)

INDUSTRIAL FILMS

The Devil To Pay (1960) B&W / sound short
* Promotional booklet

The Homeowner (1961) - Color / sound short
* Audio commentary track
Recently discovered, previously undocumented Keaton industrial film.

The Triumph of Lester Snapwell (1963) Color short

BONUS FEATURES

1 Parlor, 5 Bedrooms and 6 Baths - A new mini-documentary from filmmaker Jack Dragga.

Commentary tracks from comedy historians Andy Coryell, Paul Gierucki, Bruce Lawton, Steve Massa and Richard M. Roberts.

Still galleries featuring previously unseen Keaton images, original press books, trade advertisements and more.

New music scores from composer Ben Model.

20 page full color booklet with detailed descriptions of each film, archival photos and essays from authors/historians Ken Gordon, Steve Massa, David B. Pearson, Patricia Eliot Tobias and more!

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4 Comments:

Blogger J. S. Buchanan said...

Howdy,

I have found your blog to be intellectually stimulating. Feel free to stick a link in my guestbook (www.jaeford.com).

12:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I vaguely remember seeing those Keaton commercials on teevee as a kid (would've been 8-10 at the time) and remember 'em as pretty funny. Great to see that they've been rescued . . .

2:16 PM  
Blogger Nicko said...

Can't wait for this. I am mostly excited to see the Limelight scene with Keaton and Martha Raye, a female comic with the physical accumen of her male counterparts. Oh, and the "unknown" source of the Butcher Boy sketch featuring Keaton with Billy Gilbert is from The Ken Murray Show.

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do some people write as if nothing good ever happened for Keaton after 1929? Even Orson Welles used to make comments to that effect.

5:40 PM  

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