If you don’t know who Buster Keaton is, then I truly feel sorry for you. You need to go and educate yourself pronto, as it’s far beyond the scope of this review to impart that knowledge to you. Suffice it to say that Buster Keaton was one of the greatest, physically comedic actors who ever lived. His work is beyond brilliance, and his deadpan looks and style of comedy were nothing short of perfection.
In this film, Keaton plays a boy named Ronald, who just graduated from High School at the top of his class. He’s all about the books, and in his valedictorian speech, he praises learning above all things, and denounces the pursuit of athletics. Unfortunately, the girl he likes, Mary (Anne Cornwall), likes the athletic types, and is upset with him over his proclamation that sports are bad. So, to win her heart, Ronald goes to college, even though he can’t afford it, and gets odd jobs to work his way through. While he’s there, he starts to dabble in various sporting events, focusing mostly on track and field, but eventually ending up as the coxswain on the rowing team at the insistance of the Dean of the school, who likes Ronald and wants to help him. Ronald has a rival for Mary’s affections though, and when he’s kicked out of school, he locks himself in Mary’s room so he can get her kicked out as well and will change her mind about marrying him. Now Ronald must use all he’s learned in his athletic pursuits to rescue her from this amourous villain before it’s too late.
If you’ve seen silent comedies, then you know what to expect with films like this. Lots of physical comedy and slapstick, and Keaton was a master of it all. The story is fun and holds together well throughout the film, and his exploits, both in athletics and in the working world, are both fun and entertaining.
Kino Lorber has been releasing these Buster Keaton blu-rays, remastered in HD from the original 35mm archival elements, and they just look great. For special features, the release also includes musical setting by John Muri, audio commentary by film historian, Rob Farr, founder of the Slapsticon silent film festival, a visual essay on the film’s locations by Silent Echoes author, John Bengtson and an additional short called "The Scribe" (1966, 30min), which is believed to be Keaton’s last filmed performance in an industrial film sponsored by the Construction Safety Association of Ontario.
Do yourself a favor and get a hold of every Buster Keaton film you can, including the films he made with Fatty Arbuckle, and really immerse yourself in them. Then you can you genuinely appreciate what a brilliant performer he truly was. People like him are few and far between in the modern era of film, though people like Jackie Chan have continued to be inspired by his legacy and use his inspiration to bring fun, laughter and amazing feats of physical comedy to their films.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.