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Author Topic: Out West (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton  (Read 115 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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Out West (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
« on: March 11, 2017, 12:33:36 PM »
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  • http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/A06_A_Country_Hero.html

    The next short in our list, A COUNTRY HERO, is a lost short.  [cry] As a result, we turn our attentions to the next short, OUT WEST.  Here are some contemporary accounts.




    http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/A07_Out_West.html
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Out_West_1918%2C_Fatty_Arbuckle%2C_Buster_Keaton.webm

    OUT WEST is not to be confused with the Three Stooges short of the same name.

    This is the first Arbuckle film to be produced out west, ironically.  We have the typical premise here: Roscoe versus Al St. John.  The opening scenes are fantastic and dangerous, but not as risky as stuff we'll see later from Buster Keaton.  In spite of the dangers, they are funny.

    I have to pause here and point out that this film is extremely and deliberately racist.  First, Roscoe gets attacked and chased by cannibalistic Indians (hint: there weren't any by this time), and a bunch of saloon patrons shoot at the feet of a black man (who is crying) to make him "dance."

    The thought of Roscoe just grabbing guns randomly and being an expert marksman works surprisingly well, though it could have been used more effectively.  More impressive is Buster's basement of corpses... and the corpses roll themselves in!

    As for Al St. John, I see no humor in the scene in the bar where he's essentially molesting Alice Lake and immune to 22 bottles being smashed on his head plus being shot several times... and then turns out he's ticlklish?  There's comedic effect, and then there's just plain stupid.  And this is nothing against St. John himself.  This is addition to the stupidity of the concept of Alice Lake as a Salvation Army worker in this small, violent community because (1) there was no Salvation Army in those states yet, (2) they would never send a woman alone into such a place, and (3) a Salvation Army worker would never have a crush on a bartender.  Alice Lake is an anachronism, and an unfunny one at that.

    The man riding the horse makes for a funny even if brief scene.  But Buster really gets most of the truly funny moments, such as his tricks during the gun fight and the aforementioned basement of corpses.

    Lots of things would need to change for this to be a good short.  As it is...

    5/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Out West (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: March 11, 2017, 01:43:17 PM »
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  •       Yes, A COUNTRY HERO is the only completely lost Keaton film.  A shame, but THE COOK was a lost film 20 years ago, so you never know if it will show up. We're very lucky to have all the Keaton we have, thank Raymond Rohauer and others, or surely more would be lost.

          Now for the main course.  Yes, this week's short shares a title with a Stooge film.  There is also the similarly titled Buster Keaton film GO WEST, with shares a title with a Marx Brothers film.  This all confuses me to this day.  Anyway, I overall like this film better than Paul, but I'll be the first to admit there are flaws.  Yes, the racist scene is obvious.  The scene is not just racist, but nihilistic, because no matter the race of the man, this scene does not belong in a comedy, or if so, there better be some great dramatic pay off.  The problem is the poor guy is gained up on by every one simply because of his race with those bullets to his feet, and the close ups of the guy crying....let's just say the comic momentum is temporarily halted.  Bullets are meant for comic cartoonish effect, not realism without a plot to justify it.

          Briefly, I also want to point out a missed opportunity with character development in the Salvation Army worker in the "den of vice."  Surely Chaplin would have used Edna Purviance for this role and developed her character and the story around it much greater.  By this time, Chaplin was doing mature comic works like THE VAGABOND, truly Arbuckle wasn't up to that dramatic story telling level in comedy at this point.  Would he have ever been?  Who knows?

          Still, some great stuff in spite of the flaws.  The opening train scene is fantastic, just wonderful filmmaking and humor all around. The chase on top of the train, the breaking up of the cargo, you gotta imagine this stuff had an influence on Keaton later on.  The gag involving Arbuckle lighting the match and catching the train is to me the comic highlight.  Also, for trivia buffs, of the three guys Arbuckle is stealing the food from, the guy in the middle with the newspaper is Joe Keaton, Buster's Dad and Vaudeville partner.  We'll be seeing plenty more of him.

          As for the ending gun fight, what it lacks in wit of later Keaton finales, it makes up for in pure setting.  Goes back to what I said in CONEY ISLAND, I just love the realistic setting in these silent films, it lends such great atmosphere.  OK, on top of that, I do appreciate how St. John gets his commupence towards the end.

          Overall, a good, but flawed film.

    8/10
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    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Out West (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: March 11, 2017, 01:46:26 PM »
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  • Regarding A COUNTRY HERO, all I can add is that, from what I've read, it apparently went over budget. That incident with Arbuckle might have contributed, while an extra $20,000 was spent on a scene where a locomotive destroyed two Ford cars.

    As for OUT WEST, I think that it's a decent short, once again mostly because of Keaton. Keaton's basement of corpses is probably the highlight to me. Another highlight is when Keaton's bartender is shot and he immediately puts up a "Bartender Wanted" sign. The business on the train at the beginning is fun to watch as well and there's a fun minor gag where one of the patrons takes a sip out of Keaton's glass while they're being held up.

    That being said, yes, I do have to agree that there are problems with this short. The racism in this is very uncomfortable to watch and Al St. John's scenes are not fun to watch either. The final gun fight has a large location and gives Keaton a chance to do some falls, but is pretty short and suffers from focusing on the scenes of Arbuckle in the cabin.

    It does have its problems, but I think Keaton does make up for a lot of it, so I'll be a little generous with my rating.

    7 out of 10

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Out West (1918) - Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: March 11, 2017, 01:52:01 PM »
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  •       Yes, A COUNTRY HERO is the only completely lost Keaton film.  A shame, but THE COOK was a lost film 20 years ago, so you never know if it will show up. We're very lucky to have all the Keaton we have, thank Raymond Rohauer and others, or surely more would be lost.

    In addition, OH DOCTOR! was also a lost short and Keaton's official version of THE BLACKSMITH was also recently discovered, so maybe we will find this one day.  :)