Buster Keaton: Sherlock Jr., The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Buster Keaton: Sherlock Jr., The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr.
(Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman, Charles Reisner, 1924-1928)
Rating: 5/5
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: One of comedy's most influential auteurs, Buster Keaton revolutionised the art-form. This triple Blu-ray set of his finest work is a cinephile's dream.
If anything, the advent of CGI and its often poor, lazy and unintentionally distracting use only makes classic slapstick comedy even sharper, funnier and more jaw-dropping. Take the case of Buster Keaton's career in film as a prime example.
This is a performer who literally put his neck on the (train)line time and time again, pushing the limits of human endurance and physical risk to get the kind of shots that would make audiences gasp and convulse with laughter.
When you see his films now, it's evident that there was no safety net of the sort we have today. Comedy is meant to be laced with danger and the possibility of misfire. It lives on a cliff-edge border and few performers navigated that dangerous territory so brazenly as Keaton. For those who may be tempted to write these kind of pictures off as dated, I say yes let's do that and look back nostalgically at them.
Collected here by the ever-dependable Masters of Cinema range are perhaps his three greatest film achievements: Sherlock Jr., The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr. - all three of which were crafted in the 1920s. Considering their age, the picture quality is incredible. These 4K restorations really do represent their finest ever appearance outside of a movie theatre.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) (dir. Buster Keaton) – A film projectionist (and amateur detective) offers to solve the case of a missing watch, but is instead framed for the crime himself. Desperate to clear his name, the projectionist dreams of being the great Sherlock Jr., and in one of cinemas most iconic sequences, literally steps into the screen to bring his fantasies to life.
The General (1926) (dir. Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton) – When union spies steal his locomotive (along with his girlfriend), a plucky railway engineer pursues them doggedly across enemy lines. Containing one of the most memorable chase sequences in the history of filmmaking, The General is widely considered to be Keaton's masterpiece.
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) (dir. Charles Reisner) – A steamboat captain receives a telegram informing him that his son who he has not seen for many years will be coming to visit. Eagerly expecting a strapping young lad who will help him compete with his arch-rival, he is disappointed with the effete progeny that instead shows up. Best remembered for its climactic cyclone sequence in which Keaton performs a number of death-defying stunts whilst an entire town is destroyed around him, Steamboat Bill, Jr. was Buster Keaton's last independent silent comedy and also one of his finest.
Eureka's highly recommended Blu-ray set contains the following features:
  • 1080p presentations of all three films from stunning new 4K restorations
  • Audio commentary on Sherlock Jr. by film historian David Kalat
  • A new video interview with film scholar Peter Kramer discussing The General
  • Buster Keaton: The Genius Destroyed by Hollywood (52 mins) - A new documentary on Keaton and his struggles working within the Hollywood studio system
  • Buster Keaton on Wagon Train (58 mins) - an audio recording of a then 63 year old Buster Keaton in conversation with television writer Bill Cox.
  • Sherlock Jr. - Original Music Score by Timothy Brock
  • Sherlock Jr. - Tour of Filming Locations featurette
  • Sherlock Jr. - Movie Magic & Mysteries featurette
  • The General - Original Music Score by Carl Davis
  • The General - Tour of Filming Locations featurette
  • The General - Video Tour featurette
  • The General - Home Movie Footage
  • The General - Introduction by Orson Welles
  • The General - Introduction by Gloria Swanson
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr - Original Music Score by Carl Davis
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. - A video essay on the making of the film
  • PLUS: A 60-PAGE BOOK featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp; notes on each film; archival writings; Keaton Family Scrapbook, a selection of Keaton family photographs generously supplied by friends of the Keaton family and a stunning array of archival images

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