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The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 1: The General And Steamboat Bill, Jr. Blu-ray Review

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You can’t go wrong with The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 1: The General and Steamboat Bill Jr.

With this double feature set from Cohen Media, viewers get two Buster Keaton silent comedy film classics. First up is what is often regarded as not only Buster Keaton’s best film but one of the best films in all of cinema. I am, of course, referring to “The General.” This Civil War set film finds an engineer named Johnnie who must get his train (The General) back from Union spies. The stolen train also happens to have his lady love Annabelle on board so he basically has to save his two loves.

Despite the fact that it is unpleasant to see the Confederates viewed as the heroes in this story, one can’t deny how much of a cinematic ride this movie is. It’s a love story, it’s an action film, it’s a war film and it’s a comedy all in one. We all know Buster Keaton is a comedic genius who is known for death denying stunts, but he really should get more credit for his pioneering work as a director (Clyde Bruckman also co-directed this particular film). The sheer scope and ambitions of everything from the action on the moving train to the complexity of the battle scenes is truly mind blowing considering this film was made in 1926.

Next up on this disc is “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” While not on the level of “The General,” it’s still top notch Buster Keaton fare nonetheless. Directed by Charles Reisner (with uncredited work by Keaton himself), the story revolves around Steamboat Bill who runs and owns a steamboat that isn’t in the best shape. Worst still, he’s trying to compete with his rival John James King’s superior steamboat. As if he didn’t have enough problems, his puny son (the titular character) comes to visit and reveals he is seeing John’s daughter Kitty. Can Kitty and Jr.’s relationship survive the rivalry between their fathers? Can Jr. prove his worth to his father?

While the romance and rivalry story is nothing special, this 1928 film stands out for one reason- the terrific cyclone sequence. This sequence (which is best known for the iconic scene with the house frame falling on Keaton who happens to survive by being in the right spot with an open window) almost plays like a modern action movie with the amount of chaos and destruction present. However, it’s also played for laughs of course given that this is a Keaton comedy after all. No amount of words can do the brilliance of the sequence justice. It simply has to be seen for itself.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.32:1 1080p. How does it look? I’ve seen both films on numerous formats over the years and these are easily the best transfers yet. There’s so much more clarity to the image. Gone are the days you have to watch these films with severe print damage and lines.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? The Carl Davis scores are as clear as can be. I do wish there were other score options though. The Steamboat score is a bit odd (especially during the cyclone sequence).

Extras:
* Trailers for both films.
* A booklet featuring photos and credits.
* Cohen Media trailers
* “Reflections On The General”- Everyone from Tarantino to Leonard Maltin talk about the classic film.
* “Buster Keaton: The Luminary”- A short piece about the legendary actor/comedian/filmmaker that also features celebs talking about him.

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June 13, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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