Buster Keaton is one of the greatest names in cinema history. Keaton has influenced generations of comedians on the screen big and small with his unique brand of physical comedy, so it is only fitting that his movies have been released so many times by so many studios. The problem with the movies’ past releases is that many of those home releases have been anything but fitting tributes. Enter Cohen Media Group. Early this year, the studio released a documentary titled The Great Buster that followed Keaton’s life and career warts and all. It was even picked up by cable network Turner Classic Movies. That in itself is a statement about the importance of that documentary. It was followed up not long after with the release of two “collections” of classic Buster Keaton movies in the form of The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 1 and The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 2. Both of those releases proved to be impressive in their own right and absolute must haves for not only Buster Keaton fans, but also for classic cinema buffs. Those same audiences received yet another treat late this past August with a third “collection” of Keaton’s silent films, again courtesy of Cohen Media Group. Released Aug. 27, the third (and hopefully not last) Keaton collection features two more of Keaton’s movies, both of which form the foundation for the collection’s presentation. They will be addressed shortly. The bonus content featured with the collection’s presentation adds more interest to the two-movie set. The look and sound of the collection rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this latest collection. All things considered, they make The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 3 another wonderful addition to the home libraries of the already noted audiences and another welcome resurrection of Buster Keaton’s work.
Cohen Media Group has been quite deserving of applause this year with its Buster Keaton documentary The Great Buster and its Buster Keaton cinematic offerings. The laurels and applause are just as worthy with the recently released third collection in that series. That is due in part to the movies featured in the collection. The movies that make up the body of the collection are Seven Chances and Battling Butler. Released in 1925 and 196 respectively, these two movies are well-written romantic comedies that are very easy to follow and entertaining thanks to their overall content. Both films were also directed by Keaton, adding to their appeal. Seven Chances finds Keaton playing young lawyer James Shannon who inherits a sum of $7 million. The catch is that he cannot get the money unless he gets married by 7 pm on his birthday. The catch is the day he receives notification of his inheritance is his birthday, so that tight time frame leads to plenty of hilarity as James tries to make his way back to his true love, Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer) all while trying to avoid a mob of money hungry hopeful other brides-to-be. The whole thing is set off when James doesn’t use his words too wisely in proposing to Mary. Female audiences will love the story while male audiences will love all of the physical comedy that takes place throughout the story.
Battling Butler is based on a comedy of errors type of setup. Keaton’s character in this case – Alfred Butler – ends up having to pretend to be a famous boxer thanks to a case of mistaken identity in a newspaper article. Media errors is something that happens even in the highest ranks of television, print and even radio to this very day, so that element is relatable. The result of that error is lots of comic timing and physical humor that men and women alike will find entertaining. It is a story that has been done so many times since the debut of this classic, but has rarely been done as well as it was here. Audiences will enjoy watching James have to face up to the lie that he played into in hopes that his lady love will not realize the truth. Between this completely entertaining story and that in Seven Chances, audiences are presented with so many memorable moments that they will want to watch time and again. For all the entertainment that the movies offer audiences of all ages, they are only one part of what makes this new collection enjoyable. The bonus content adds its own value to the collection.
The bonus content featured in The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 3 is brief, but still insightful in its own right. It is another selection of comments from The Great Buster, this time focusing on Keaton’s stunt work during his career. Audiences who have not yet watched that documentary will be interested to learn through this very brief, perhaps five-minute segment – that Keaton did all of his own stunts in each of his films. Famed cinema figures, such as Leonard Maltin, Ben Mankiewicz, Bill Hader and Quentin Tarantino talk about the outstanding nature of his willingness to put his life on the line. One of the noted figures goes so far as to indirectly call out Hollywood’s major studios because they so commonly use stunt doubles for actors in action movies, whereas Keaton was one of the very rare actors in Hollywood’s history who did all of his own work. Looking back at some of the scenes in Seven Chances and even in Battling Butler, it gives even more appreciation for Keaton’s performances. Again, the collective discussions make for a brief overall bonus, but even as brief as it is, it helps add its own share of interest to the whole of the collection.
The bonus discussion about Keaton’s stunt work and physical comedy is just one more of the positives to consider in the overall presentation of The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 3. The quality of the footage in the transfer is just as noteworthy as the overall content. Viewers will note the sepia tone look of Seven Chances and despite that look, it is obvious that painstaking efforts were made to make the footage as clean as possible without losing that vintage look. Those efforts were not without a payoff to say the very least. The same applies to the work put into cleaning up the footage in Battling Butler. There is even a moment as James and the boxers run by the house where Mary stands, where the actual imperfections in the footage are visible, but not overpowering. As a matter of fact that it is still there and visible actually adds a certain positive sense of nostalgia to classic movie buffs, and in turn, makes for even more of a positive feeling to the overall viewing experience.
The sound quality for the movies is just as positive in examining the collection’s production quality. The work put into re-recording the soundtrack paid off just as much as the work that went into cleaning up the footage. Every note matches expertly with every scene and the balance of those notes is balanced just as expertly. Not once will audiences have to adjust their volume to be able to hear. Between that positive note (yes, that awful pun was intended) and the impressive look of the footage, the overall look and sound of these two movies adds just as much pleasure to the viewing experience in this set as its content. Keeping that in mind, the whole of the content and the whole of the mixing, editing and production makes the package in whole yet another wonderful blast from the past for Buster Keaton fans and classic cinema fans alike, and one more of the year’s top new Family DVDs and Blu-rays.
Cohen Media group’s recent Blu-ray and DVD release of The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 3 is another example of why the company is one of the elite of the independent movie studios out there today. Just as with its previous collections, this latest addition to the (hopefully ongoing) series of compilations has so much to offer audiences. From the family friendly stories that will entertain and engage audiences of all ages to the equally positive result of the production, mixing and editing to the bonus content, there is so much to like here. Each item discussed here is important in its own right to the whole of the collection. All things considered, they make The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 3 another shining gem for anyone looking for an alternative to the wasteland that is mainstream Hollywood. It is available now from Cohen Media Group on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:
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