Thursday, August 3, 2006

Buster Keaton

Several years ago ... I don't remember just when ... I found out about Buster Keaton. Might have been an episode of the Twilight Zone (Once Upon A Time). Might have been "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Might have been some special on public TV. Whatever it was, I was fascinated. And an instant fan.

The trouble is, you don't ... or didn't ... get to see many of Buster Keaton's movies. But, one day, I caught "The General" on cable TV. If you're not familiar with "The General," you've missed a classic.

It's loosely ... very loosely ... based on the Great Locomotive Chase. That's where Andrews Raiders captured a Confederate railroad engine and were chased by the conductor and eventually captured with Andrews and 7 others hung as spies.

From that, Buster Keaton found the basis for a comedy.

"The General" ... with all its sight gags, wonderful timing, and Keaton's great Stone Face ... is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Ever.

If you've seen it, you understand when I mention Johnny Gray (Buster's character) trying to get the boxcar in front of his engine moved ... getting it moved to a side track while running on foot next to a moving locomotive ... turning away to tend the engine while the boxcar returns from the side track ... turning back to see it back, and Buster's perfect reaction ... then turning away to tend the engine, missing the boxcar hitting a cross-tie and derailing ... then turning back to see it gone again.

I don't know how else to describe that sequence of events. But the action and the timing is perfect. And Buster's face is priceless.

If you haven't seen it ... well, it's your loss.

Recently, I introduced Buster Keaton to a friend at work. He loved "The General." And "Steamboat Bill, Jr.." And, to repay the favor, loaned me a DVD containing "Our Hospitality."

That movie is based ... loosely ... on Romeo and Juliet. But without all the suicides. And with lots of Buster Keaton sight gags, situations, and reactions.

As much as I like my TiVo, don't much beat a good old fashioned funny, funny movie.

Black and white.



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