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Author Topic: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton  (Read 1009 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
« on: February 11, 2017, 08:44:24 PM »
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  • http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/A02_The_Rough_House.html


    Watch THE ROUGH HOUSE in the link above.

    The second film starring Roscoe Arbuckle and co-starring Buster Keaton is the first written or directed by Buster, and he did both!  It's been almost 100 years (this June) since then!

    This short really features what Roscoe Arbuckle was best suited: poise when facing disaster with an ineffective solution to the problem creating a larger disaster.  We see this twice, both involving fire.  The roll dance was uninspiring and much better by Curly Howard later.  Slapping mashed potatoes on the "duke's" head as toupeĆ© paste was fantastic.  Roscoe is just awesome.

    The highlight of this film is the battle between Al St. John and Buster Keaton, with a grimace-worthy moment when Buster tosses a knife that lands in St. John's mouth.  They together do a great interpretation of the Keystone Cops, noting Umbrella Sam's post...

    I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of the Keystone style of humor, but one exception to that is the Keystone Kops. I've just always been a big fan of their wacky antics and how energetic they could be and we get the pleasure of seeing Keaton and Al St. John basically playing Keystone Kops (I know they're not technically Keystone Kops, but they're still pretty similar). Every scene with them as policemen is fantastic to watch from the falls and backflips they do to the gag of them appearing and disappearing out of nowhere.

    Al St. John and Roscoe Arbuckle were Keystone Cops prior to joining Comique, so this is not coincidence.  And the results are hilarious.



    The falls are done well here, and the timing is impeccable.  The female cast is a bit wooden and not really fearsome as they are supposed to be.  The dukes are also not great.  We have three legends and a bunch of slop to go with it.  It's going uphill fast here!

    9/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
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    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: February 11, 2017, 09:12:54 PM »
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  • Personally, I thought this was an improvement over THE BUTCHER BOY, as this one was more consistently funny throughout, though I will say that the fight in this one between Keaton and Al St. John goes on for way too long and seeing Keaton throw a knife in Al's mouth is kind of uncomfortable. The fight in THE BUTCHER BOY built up to Keaton and Al St. John on top of the shelves throwing the store items at each other, but this one doesn't really ever go anywhere, as they just kind of chase each other throughout the house. Otherwise, though, this short was better.

    I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of the Keystone style of humor, but one exception to that is the Keystone Kops. I've just always been a big fan of their wacky antics and how energetic they could be and we get the pleasure of seeing Keaton and Al St. John basically playing Keystone Kops (I know they're not technically Keystone Kops, but they're still pretty similar). Every scene with them as policemen is fantastic to watch from the falls and backflips they do to the gag of them appearing and disappearing out of nowhere.

    Arbuckle has his moments as well. There's a particularly funny scene in the beginning where he just casually tries to put out a fire by walking to the kitchen and filling cups with water. He also gets to take part in a gun fight in the end that is a much more satisfying conclusion than the one in THE BUTCHER BOY with Al and his minions being scared of Luke the dog.

    We also get the dancing food gag that would later become famous in Charlie Chaplin's THE GOLD RUSH. I've always been neutral to this gag, so I can't really say much more about it, as I never really found it funny.

    So, overall, I liked this short. It's not perfect as Arbuckle is still doing roughhouse humor and it's not super funny, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

    7 out of 10

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: February 11, 2017, 09:21:13 PM »
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  • Just realized I said Arbuckle was doing roughhouse humor when the short is called THE ROUGH HOUSE. No pun intended.

     [pie]

    Offline CurlyFan1934

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: February 12, 2017, 10:01:33 AM »
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  • (This has nothing to do with my review, but I found on the Wikipedia page for this short that this is Buster's first writing credit, his first director credit, and the first time he was put in a starring role. On to the review.)

    THE ROUGH HOUSE is a bit of a strange film to review in terms of its pacing. I feel like it never really reaches a climax, never really has a sense of finality, but that's quite alright because of the sheer funniness of the film and genuine thought that goes into the gags.

    While Buster really doesn't get a lot to do in the film compared to THE BUTCHER BOY, Roscoe Arbuckle really takes the cake as the cook. The first scene with him attempting to put out a fire in his house is just great. He gets a little dinky water source to try and put the fire out but then wonders why the fire isn't going away. His reactions really make the scene what it is. The over-exaggerated reactions from the rest of the cast in this scene really amount to nothing, but Arbuckle's Stan Laurel-like way of thinking in this scene make it good.

    Now, there is quite a big slapstick scene in this one and it goes on for a good 4 minutes which is quite a long time. It's no BUTCHER BOY pie and flour fight, but it is quite good. You can see that Buster is perfecting the mannerisms and reactions that would make him a highly respected comic. If you read my review of THE BUTCHER BOY, then you know my thoughts on Al St. John. He's just a traditional silent comic and his reactions never do much to me, and that's how this scene feels to me. Another highlight of the fight is Roscoe's reactions to when food gets thrown at him because he doesn't know how or why this is happening to him.

    After this slapstick fight, Buster and Al throw some flour at a cop who then demands that for these actions, Buster and Al have to either do their time in jail or become a part of the police force. They choose the latter, which results in some Keystone Kop-esque comedy. There is a funny gag during one of the cop scenes where they appear out of thin air due to the police commissioner's requests.

    Meanwhile, Roscoe has some neat gags as a cook that never really amount to much, and then there's some big chase scene where there's a funny gag with Buster but that's pretty much the highlight. Then, the short is over. While there are quite a few good gags in this, and the inventiveness shows off, the "climax" and "finale" don't really do much to the overall short. I'm going to give this an equal rating of my review for THE BUTCHER BOY:

    7/10

    Offline Seamus

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: February 12, 2017, 01:42:53 PM »
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  • THE ROUGH HOUSE is a bit of a strange film to review in terms of its pacing. I feel like it never really reaches a climax, never really has a sense of finality, but that's quite alright because of the sheer funniness of the film and genuine thought that goes into the gags.

    I agree, this one feels unfocused and shapeless.  A series of barely connected scenes, most of them ramped up to full chaos.  I'd already watched the first two shorts in the Keaton shorts blu-ray collection when Paul announced he'd be reviewing these shorts next, so I decided to put my viewing on hold and watch them as they got reviewed, including rewatching BUTCHER BOY and ROUGH HOUSE when the time came.  While I had a pretty good recollection of BUTCHER BOY before my second viewing, I honestly couldn't remember a thing about ROUGH HOUSE till I started watching it again.  It's such a formless mess structurally that the whole thing just washed over me the first time.

    I found Fatty kind of annoying  in the scene where he's serving the guests at dinner.  Wreaking deliberate mayhem at the dinner table would work better if it were Harpo Marx (whose character is all about mayhem for mayhem's sake) or Stan Laurel (whose dull ineptitude would be a more believable basis for the mishaps).  But Arbuckle's deliberate sabotaging of the dinner party (pulling off toupees, slapping people in the head with soup sponges, etc.) and chuckling at the camera with each mishap didn't sit well with his hapless, only slightly dim nice guy persona.  Made him come across as a brat. 

    The best parts here are the stunts.  That synchronized forward flip by the three cops (including Keaton) over the edge of the hill was so spectacular I had to rewind it and take it in again.  It's hard to imagine a time when there were so many comedians willing and able to do that kind of dangerous stunt work for a laugh.  And I loved the moment when Keaton, for no reason at all, executes a rapid back-flip outside the police station, clocking a man in the face with his boot during his mid-air rotation.

    Not sure where I'd rank this one relative to BUTCHER BOY.  There's nothing in this one that I enjoyed as much as the first half of BB, but it's more dynamic and satisfying than BB's tedious second half. 

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: February 12, 2017, 03:18:42 PM »
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  • To be honest, I kind of doubt that this was Keaton's first directorial effort. I know Wikipedia says that he co-wrote and co-directed, but there's no source and it says he only co-wrote and co-directed that one short and none of the other Arbuckles. It seems odd that Arbuckle would only have him co-direct that one short. Also, the booklet in the new Buster Keaton shorts blu-ray only credits Arbuckle as director.

    I do believe that as time went along, Keaton did gradually become Arbuckle's co-director as Arbuckle began to sort of phase out of the knockabout style of humor he was used to. However, I think this short was just a little too early for Arbuckle to fully trust him with co-directing. I may be wrong, though, as there might be a source out there that confirms his involvement behind the scenes.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #6 on: February 12, 2017, 04:03:58 PM »
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  • To be honest, I kind of doubt that this was Keaton's first directorial effort. I know Wikipedia says that he co-wrote and co-directed, but there's no source and it says he only co-wrote and co-directed that one short and none of the other Arbuckles. It seems odd that Arbuckle would only have him co-direct that one short. Also, the booklet in the new Buster Keaton shorts blu-ray only credits Arbuckle as director.

    I do believe that as time went along, Keaton did gradually become Arbuckle's co-director as Arbuckle began to sort of phase out of the knockabout style of humor he was used to. However, I think this short was just a little too early for Arbuckle to fully trust him with co-directing. I may be wrong, though, as there might be a source out there that confirms his involvement behind the scenes.

    Especially considering it was only Keaton's second film appearance!
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #7 on: February 13, 2017, 11:33:23 AM »
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  •       First off, throw me in the camp where I don't believe Keaton co-directed this one.  Way too early for that kind of control on Keaton's part.  I can believe the later collaborations, like THE GARAGE, maybe being co-directed by Keaton because there it feels almost like a team effort.  THE ROUGH HOUSE?  Arbuckle at this point was a film veteran, Keaton was on his second film, not likely.

          Basic analysis of THE ROUGH HOUSE - an unpretentious slapstick film.  When it tries to throw in a bit of plot, like the jewels being stolen and the gun chase happening, it feels forced, unfocused, and unfunny.  The chase at the end, again, is the weak point and THE ROUGH HOUSE is much better when focusing on skit like slapstick comedy scenes.  Arbuckle uses chases for their own sake the way Sennett did in the teens, and the chase is something that was perfected much better in the twenties by Keaton, Lloyd, and even to a lesser extent, Sennett himself, as the focus and reason of the chase was better developed, as was the editing, which felt less frantic and again, more focused.

          Still some funny stuff here.  One really great gag I like is Arbuckle taking whole potatoes and making them mashed through a fan.  A very funny and clever bit of business.  The gag where a fire starts and the comedian goes back and forth between room trying to put it out with a coffee cup full of water has been done so many times I can't even remember what films I've seen it in, it just blends together.  I'm pretty sure this gag showed up in AFRICA SCREAMS, though it's been years since I've seen it, and perhaps a Besser solo?  Did this gag show up in a Stooge short?  I can't even remember, I just I've seen this gag before, one of those slapstick staples that has transcended any film or comedian that's done it in my eyes.  I do appreciate Arbuckle's nonchalant nature here.

          As for Keaton, along with Al St. John, both are simply awesome stunt men here.  Really the basic physical aspect of Keaton is on display, as his screen character and dead pan humor have not developed on screen yet.  Yes, there's that dead pan thing.  When Keaton flirts with the girl, when Keaton fights, he grimaces, and he smiles!  Keaton solo, the great stone face, never smiled in any of his films and only did it on screen with Arbuckle.  Keaton claims he got his dead pan stone face from working on stage with his Dad, so either Keaton is mis remembering this or Arbuckle is simply directing Keaton to smile against Keaton's normal working methods.  Whatever the reason, these Arbuckle films are the only places you'll ever see Keaton laugh or smile, and THE ROUGH HOUSE is the first example.

    7/10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #8 on: February 13, 2017, 06:50:24 PM »
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  • Totally forgot to mention Arbuckle playing with the rolls!

    With Arbuckle: A comic bit where he takes the rolls and intimidates the walk of Charlie Chaplin, the most famous actor in the world at the time and Arbuckle's chief competitor. 

    With Chaplin in THE GOLD RUSH: A charming, surreal bit of virtuosity that would take tons of rehearsal for a normal person to master. 

    With Curly: A fine bit of childlike playfulness.

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #9 on: February 13, 2017, 07:29:07 PM »
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  • Just a wild stab, but for some reason the detective reminds me of James C. Morton.  Also, I think I saw somewhere that in that Keystone Kop still, the Kop with the surprised expression behind Ford Sterling is Edgar Kennedy.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #10 on: February 13, 2017, 08:13:00 PM »
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  • Just a wild stab, but for some reason the detective reminds me of James C. Morton.  Also, I think I saw somewhere that in that Keystone Kop still, the Kop with the surprised expression behind Ford Sterling is Edgar Kennedy.

    I think you're right about Edgar Kennedy.  Kennedy certainly worked for Sennett at the time and looking at that picture, it does look like him.

    I think the guy third from the right next to Al St. John is Hank Mann, the guy who boxed Chaplin in CITY LIGHTS.  Can't figure out the others outside of Arbuckle, St. John, Kennedy, and Sterling.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #11 on: February 14, 2017, 04:42:39 AM »
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  • Here is the photo caption from Wiki: The Keystone Cops in a typical pose in IN THE CLUTCHES OF THE GANG (1914). The desk officer using the telephone is Ford Sterling. The policeman directly behind Sterling (in extreme background, left) is Edgar Kennedy. The young cop to Kennedy's left is Robert Cox. The hefty policeman at extreme right is Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. The young constable with bulging eyes, fourth from right, is Arbuckle's nephew Al St. John. The casting of the Keystone police force changed from one film to the next; many of the individual members were per diem actors who remain unidentifiable.

    The cast of IN THE CLUTCHES OF THE GANG is Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Charles Avery, Nick Cogley, George Jeske, Edgar Kennedy, Hank Mann, Harry McCoy, Rube Miller, George Nichols, Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, and Al St. John.  So it probably is Edgar Kennedy!
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    Offline CurlyFan1934

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #12 on: February 15, 2017, 03:48:56 PM »
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  • I read a very good book once about the life of Edgar Kennedy that I believe was written by Bill Cassara that went very in-depth about the early stages of his life. One of the key points that they brought up was his life at Keystone. Of course, he went on to be a very prolific actor, but every now and then they would call him back for a Keystone Kop reunion or Keystone movie.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Rough House (1917) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #13 on: February 15, 2017, 06:55:32 PM »
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  • I read a very good book once about the life of Edgar Kennedy that I believe was written by Bill Cassara that went very in-depth about the early stages of his life. One of the key points that they brought up was his life at Keystone. Of course, he went on to be a very prolific actor, but every now and then they would call him back for a Keystone Kop reunion or Keystone movie.

    As Edgar would say... Oh, shit!   :police: [pie] >:D
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