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Author Topic: The Playhouse (1921) - Buster Keaton  (Read 505 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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The Playhouse (1921) - Buster Keaton
« on: July 08, 2017, 05:23:18 AM »
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    Watch THE PLAYHOUSE in the link above.

    What we have here is one of the greatest masterpieces of not just the silent era but of all films ever made.  THE PLAYHOUSE sees the absolute perfection in combining humor, slight of hand, and camera effects.  The process is complex and detailed by the Damfinos in the provided link.  Subtleties throughout the short make this well worth your 23 minutes.

    The opening sequence involves many elements of multiple Keaton figures on stage.  Read more to find out about these things.  Yes, there are blackface characters among the 9 Keaton's, but, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing racist in the characters themselves.  One must realize that this is a combo of camera effects done to poke fun at Tom Ince (who has a fascinating tale), who was as ego self-inflating as Marv Newland.

    Now, the short itself is an interesting amalgam of plot and vaudeville sketches.  Keaton's misfortunes with the twins and his resolve to never drink again make for great moments in this.  His portrayal of the monkey is spot on, and this says a lot as I hate monkeys.  As for the war veterans, I disagree that they're Civil War veterans because (1) that'd make them over 70 years old, and (2) Spanish-American War soldiers (which was just 23 years prior) also wore blue coats.

    I never have figured out how the girl "gets caught" in a smooth surfaced tank.  Nor do I really understand why Joe Roberts wants to pound Keaton for saving his life (even if violently).  Either way...

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

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    Re: The Playhouse (1921) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: July 08, 2017, 01:17:00 PM »
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  • Massive credit has to go to Elgin Lessley for the opening with multiple Keatons. Keaton's performances are great, but it is Lesley's camera work that really sells the idea. However, Keaton still has a lot of energy throughout, particularly during his dances and when he's in the orchestra. One of my favorite gags is when he oiled his trombone slide, so much to the point that it comes off too fast for him.

    The rest of the short is like a more refined version of BACK STAGE. Whereas that short shows he back stage antics in the first half and the variety show in the second half, this one combines them throughout. Back stage, there's a funny joke involving Keaton and his confusion when he first meets the twins, with Keaton writing a pledge that he ends up cancelling. The act with the Zouave guards is also very fun and acrobatic. My favorite gag, though, is when Keaton attempts to get the girl out of the water by using a teacup to remove the water. Keaton's monkey make-up is a bit too creepy for my liking, although like Paul mentioned, his impression of the monkey is really good.

    While the opening tends to be the most remembered aspect of this short, the whole thing is very well executed.

    10 out of 10

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Playhouse (1921) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: July 08, 2017, 08:47:34 PM »
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  • For sure not a wasted frame.  The musical scoring is fairly recent, I know, and it's brilliant.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Playhouse (1921) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: July 08, 2017, 09:03:04 PM »
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  •       Slightly better than SELF MADE MAIDS.


          What, you want me to say more than that?  OK.  THE PLAYHOUSE is pure genius.  The first seven minutes or so is the sequence where Keaton plays every part, and as Paul correctly points out, parodies Thomas Ince with the programming as far as taking credit for everything.  The amount of roles Keaton plays here is breath taking, and the amazing thing is he doesn't half ass any of them.  Even when he's playing the instruments, I can at least vouche for the stringed instruments, being a bass player, that he is at least attempting to portray a believable left hand fretting technique, even doing upward slides and vibrato.  I say this as being impressed to his attention to detail.  The roles he plays, be it an old lady, old man, child, black faced minstrel, dancer, monkey, whatever, is all played with conviction and convincingly.  Every single one of them, and it's damn impressive.  As already mentioned, Elgin Lessley deserves praise for the camera technique, especially getting nine Keaton's on screen!  He had to use masking tape on the lens in perfect ninths (!) and make sure he cranked the camera at the same tempo all nine times to make sure everything fit on the screen properly and was running at the same tempo.  Incredibly difficult to do, and the results are worth it, as it's a wonderful effect.

          The rest of the film is good fun, if not as virtuosic.  The running gag of Keaton getting the twin girls confused is great stuff, as is the whole Minstrel show setting in general.  Again, another time capsule of a form of entertainment no longer existing in this day and age.  The Zouave stuff is fun, love the Siamese twin soldiers and just this whole short in general.  An unquestionable classic.

          Here's footage from a 1929 short inspired by THE PLAYHOUSE from Lupino Lane called ONLY ME.  Haven't seen this in about ten years.