Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On DVD: The Buster Keaton Collection (1939-41)

Buster Keaton has been hailed as one of the greatest comedians and filmmakers of all time. Unfortunately, when he signed with Columbia Pictures to do a series of short subject comedies, it appeared as though he was being pigeonholed into a studio style of slapstick comedy, a la Columbia stalwarts The Three Stooges, and it didn't always work.

"General Nuisance" leads off Sony's "Buster Keaton Collection" DVD set, which collects all 10 of Keaton's shorts for the studio, produced between 1939-41, but not in chronological order. "Nuisance" was made in '41. Columbia gave Keaton the same theme song they used for other non-Stooges shorts, treating him as just another guy. Bad move.

In "Nuisance", Keaton is a lovesick millionaire who enlists in the Army to get close to a nurse (Dorothy Appleby) who's caught his eye, but she doesn't return the affection, though her friend (Elsie Ames) does. Ames & Appleby were regular co-stars in the Keaton series at Columbia. Keaton, as usual, performed his own stunts, making the pratfalls much more believable. Unfortunately, the script doesn't do him any favors.

"Nuisance" is the only one of Keaton's Columbia works available on YouTube, and even then, it's in excerpt form.......

Columbia tried to force Keaton to fit their mold, and the end results show that was doomed to fail.

Rating: C.

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