It goes without saying that Hollywood has fallen far from its former greatness over the course of the past 30 years or so. The last time that Hollywood’s “Big Six” created anything truly worth watching on the big screen (and small) was the late 1990s. Ever since then, Hollywood’s cinematic output has consisted primarily of prequels, sequels, reboots, and overly embellished movies based on actual events. It has made independent studios increasingly important outlets for those looking for alternative outlets for audiences looking for their cinematic entertainment. Cohen Media Group has succeeded in that avenue quite well over the course of the past two years through its re-issues of physical comedian Buster Keaton’s classic silent films. The latest of those re-issues came early last month in the form of the company’s fourth collection of Keaton classics, The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4. As with its predecessors, which were released between May 2019 and August 2019, this fourth volume offers plenty for audiences to enjoy, beginning with its featured stories. Those stories will be discussed shortly. The look and sound of the restored films adds its own appeal for audiences and will be discussed a little later. The bonus content that accompanies the stories puts the finishing touch to the collection’s presentation. It will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the set’s presentation. All things considered, they make The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4 one more important presentation for any classic cinephile and Buster Keaton fan.
Cohen Media Group’s latest Buster Keaton cinematic collection, is yet another enjoyable alternative to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on actual events that Hollywood’s “Big Six” continue to churn out annually. It is a presentation that will appeal equally to fans of Keaton’s work and to classic cinephiles. That is proven in large part through its featured stories. Featured this time are the 1925 movie Go West and its 1927 follow-up College. Go West is not as well-known as some of Keaton’s other silent offerings, but offers audiences plenty of entertainment. It stars Keaton as a down-on-his-luck man who ends up becoming a ranch hand in his search for work. In the process, Keaton’s unnamed character ends up befriending a cow when he is sent to help round up a herd of cattle that will soon thereafter be carried via train to stockyards in Los Angeles. That friendship that Keaton’s character develops with the wayward soon after becomes the central point of the story because he starts out the story being friendless and basically penniless. Audiences will note that throughout the course of Go West’s one hour, nine minute run time, the pratfalls and other physical comedy for which Keaton had come to be known over his career were less prominent here. It was one of those rare moments in which Keaton relied more on his pure acting skills to tell a story than his physical comedy. It makes the movie somewhat less memorable than many of his other movies, but no less entertaining. It really shows another side of Keaton that audiences are sure to enjoy.
College by comparison is among the most well-known of Keaton’s silent film career. This movie’s story finds Keaton’s character Ronald trying to win the heart of a young woman following graduation from their high school. He tries to win her over by showing he can be athletic as well as smart as a member of one of Clayton College’s sports teams. Audiences cannot help but root for him as he tries his hand – unsuccessfully – at baseball and a variety of track and field events. Alas Ronald struggles through it all, but unknown to him, the young woman whose heart he wants to win is watching, and she eventually does develop a soft spot for him. When he is appointed coxswain of the college’s rowing team, it leads to a happy ending between the pair. How the ending happens will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. It should be noted here that for all of the enjoyment the story brings, there is one scene in which Ronald dons black face in order to get himself a job. Ronald’s intent was good at heart, being that he was just trying to get a job. At the same time though, the scene in itself played zero part in the overall story. To that end, it is clear that the story’s creative heads put that scene in for no reason other than racist tendencies. Keeping that in mind, that scene really should have been omitted from the movie. Such portrayal was wrong then and is wrong now. Keaton does so well in his underdog performance this time out. That is due in part to Keaton breaking some from his typical stone face demeanor and actually emoting some. The physical comedy that he utilizes –especially in the track and field moments and during the big rowing race – adds even more enjoyment for audiences. Viewers will laugh riotously at the result of Ronald trying his hand at the high jump and hammer thrown, and even what he does to try and keep his rowing team’s boat straight in the big finale race. Between the familiar physical comedy, Keaton’s general performance and the story itself here, audiences have so much to appreciate in this classic movie. Together with the touching and entertaining story of friendship in Go West, the two movies are themselves more than enough reason for audiences to add this collection to their movie libraries. Building on the appeal of the movies is their production values.
The production values of the movies featured in Cohen Media Group’s first three volumes of Buster Keaton movies played a big part into their presentations. The painstaking efforts that were made in order to restore the nearly century-old footage, both in terms of its visual and audio quality paid off in each presentation. The same applies to this pair of movies. The grainy look of the original presentation was kept. At the same time, it is clear that those responsible for the touch up went to great lengths to retain the original look of the film. Even the original edits are there and have been touched up just enough to keep them from being distracting. The result of the intensive work put in to restore the footage clearly paid off, with the result being a presentation that creates such a positive aesthetic sense. In the same breath, the re-worked musical track adds its own touch to the overall presentation. The whole of the re-mastered audio and video makes watching these latest re-issues just as enjoyable for their production values as for their stories and for Keaton’s acting. These elements are just a portion of what makes the collection so enjoyable. The bonus content that accompanies the set’s primary content rounds out its most important elements.
The bonus content that is featured in CMG’s latest Buster Keaton collection adds its own touch to the set’s presentation because it is so much unlike that of the previous collections. The bonus content that is featured with the first three collections is just a series of discussions lifted from CMG’s 2019 Keaton documentary The Great Buster. That trend was not repeated here. Instead, audiences get a full hour-length audio recording of Keaton pitching a TV show script and an original Western short also titled Go West. The audio recording of Keaton’s script pitch is interesting, though somewhat difficult to hear. Viewers have to turn the volume very high in order to be able to really hear it. It leaves one wondering if any work was done to restore that audio. On the other hand, the short Go West makes for some wonderful entertainment. The silent short tells the story of a young man who ends up moving to the Wild West after being kicked out of his home by his own father. The story is enacted by a group of trained Capuchin Monkeys. The monkeys’ acting, the model train and old west town that are presented here give the story such a great look and feel while the story itself is just as entertaining and engaging for audiences. The outcome will be left for audiences themselves to discover. Though, it should be noted that as entertaining and engaging as it all is, there are mentions of alcohol in this story so parents who watch the otherwise family friendly story with their children might have to figure out a way to explain that aspect to their kids. That aside, the story still makes for a great accent to everything else featured in this latest collection. When it is considered along with the collection’s primary content and its related production values, the whole becomes a presentation that Keaton’s most devoted fans will enjoy just as much as any true cinephiles. It leaves audiences hoping that as with the first three collections, this one will not be the last since there are still some classic Buster Keaton flicks that have yet to be released to the masses.
Cohen Media Group’s fourth installment of Buster Keaton movies is another presentation that cinephiles and Keaton fans will find equally interesting. That is due in part to the stories that are featured in this collection’s pairing of movies. Each story puts Keaton into his familiar lovable underdog role and does so in its own unique fashion. The work put in to restore the footage in each movie paid off, adding even more appeal to the overall presentation. That includes the re-mastering of the footage and the newly recorded score for each film. The bonus short that accompanies the set’s primary content rounds out its most important elements. Each element noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the collection. All things considered, they make The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4 another overall presentation that will appeal equally to Keaton’s most devoted fans and cinephiles alike. The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4 is available now.
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