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Author Topic: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton  (Read 223 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
« on: August 12, 2017, 07:29:52 AM »
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  • http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/B14_The_Blacksmith.html


    Watch THE BLACKSMITH in the link above.

    Unfortunately, I do not have access to a release print.  If you do, please feel free to review that instead because your thoughts will be enlightening.  I'm stuck with the pre-2013-discovery version.

    THE BLACKSMITH is widely regarded as Keaton's worst independent short, but I disagree.  In this version, the film is an enjoyable amalgam of pratfalls and mechanical gags that certainly does no harm to his comedic reputation.  We have moments like the watch, the balloon, the train (which is clearly a film strip being rewound: the smoke is going INTO the train).  It's those little elements that scream, "Keaton," yet say no other name.

    The co-stars help a lot in this short, but I say this noting that the saddlesore woman seems familiar enough that I think she appeared in other stuff.  The brat with the slingshot... I wish the following scene either had him getting hit by a car or getting by Buster, but alas, no.  Joe Roberts and the superhuman strength crap gets a bit tiresome because, to me, it wasted a lot of money on Keystone Kop style bit actors that could have been used on better stuff.

    8/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
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    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: August 12, 2017, 12:29:10 PM »
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  • Starting with the preview print, while I do still consider it among Keaton's weaker efforts, calling it his weakest does seem a bit unfair to me. It starts off with some funny gags involving Joe Roberts, notably with the magnet. After Roberts gets arrested, the short basically becomes a series of gags involving Keaton adjusting to life as the main blacksmith and ruining other customers' horses and cars. It gets a bit redundant after a while, although most of the gags are still pretty funny, particularly with the saddlesore woman and Keaton accidentally destroying the car.

    I'm not a huge fan of the gag of Keaton getting the horse dirty, as I feel it's very pointless considering Fox is the only one who doesn't try to get revenge on him in the end and this gag is done much better with the car. I'm also not fond of the kid with the balloon either. In addition, both Roberts and Fox returning at the end feels way too sudden, especially Roberts considering that we don't even see him getting out of the prison.

    So, yeah, it is a flawed short, but I still think that it's entertaining enough and do consider it better than both MY WIFE'S RELATIONS and next week's short. It still feels in many ways like a classic Keaton short in its tone and while not perfect is still done pretty well.

    8 out of 10

    Now, let's move on to the release print, because I do think the difference in quality between the two is notable enough to review both. The beginning for the most part is pretty similar to the preview print up until the bit with the white horse. Keaton thankfully removed the bit with him getting the horse dirty and instead has him encountering Roberts again. In addition to the fact that we actually see Roberts getting out of the prison, we also get some more exterior shots as Keaton is being chased by Roberts, so the scenes inside the shop feel less redundant. He also encounters Fox again during the chase, so much like Roberts at the end, her return doesn't feel as sudden. After the chase, the short is once again pretty similar to the preview print, with a few minor differences such as showing Roberts getting out of the Chamber of Commerce building. Also, in this version, when Keaton and Fox encounter each other at the end once again, the setting is slightly different and Keaton tricks her into thinking he gave her a new ring, unlike the preview print where he simply moves the ring as she looks at it.

    This version is definitely superior to the preview print, although it's still not perfect. Keaton still retains the bit with the kid popping the balloon and there's this weird scene in the middle of the chase in which Keaton and Roberts watch a woman undressing through her window that comes off as a bit too creepy. Still, I do think that this version compared to the preview print is a good example of Keaton's process when it came to deciding what was best for the film. I do think that this is an underrated short and if you ever have a chance to check out the release print, I highly recommend it.

    9 out of 10

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: August 13, 2017, 10:11:15 AM »
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  • What's a preview print?  Why are there two different prints?

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: August 13, 2017, 10:51:53 AM »
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  • What's a preview print?  Why are there two different prints?

    For many years, only one version of THE BLACKSMITH existed. This version was discovered at Keaton's home and was thought to have been the general release version until the discovery of a second print in 2013. After much research, it was determined that this second version was actually the general release version approved by Keaton while the previous print had been a failed preview print.

    Back then, comedians were very reliant on the preview process. They would show the film to test audiences and edit out whatever did not get a good reaction. Sometimes they didn't change a thing, as was the case with Harold Lloyd's first feature, A SAILOR-MADE MAN. However, in the case of THE BLACKSMITH, audience reaction was apparently so bad that Keaton instead ordered a re-shoot, adding new sequences and replacing or shortening others. The print that was shown at this failed preview screening is the one that was thought for many years to have been the official version. Keaton sometimes edited his films at home, which may be the reason why he kept the preview print there.

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: August 13, 2017, 11:24:31 AM »
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  • Thanks.  I knew about previews, they're still happening today, but I didn't know that story.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: August 13, 2017, 09:32:53 PM »
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  • https://www.amazon.com/Buster-Keaton-Shorts-Collection-1917-1923/dp/B01CJCQ80C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502676375&sr=8-1&keywords=buster+keaton+the+shorts+collection 

          For the record, for a fresh viewing for this review, I watched the 2013 rediscovered version.  This new discovery is the sole reason why I bought the new shorts collection set linked above.  Keaton has been re-released several times since I've been a fan on DVD and Blu-Ray, and while some of these re-releases look enticing, it would take a huge discovery like this for me to double dip.  So these days, I watch the above collection for shorts, and my trusty ART OF BUSTER KEATON DVD set I bought in the early 2000's for the features.

          What a rediscovery this is because yes, the "new" stuff does make THE BLACKSMITH a better film.  Part of the problem with the preview print we for years thought was the real deal is that it plays too much like a Three Stooges film.  Now, what's that I say?  Aren't I the guy who reviewed every one of their main films for almost four years?  How can I say that?  A Three Stooges film works for The Three Stooges, but not Keaton.  The Three Stooges are great at incompetence because usually the incompetent Moe acts the leader and reprimands the other two Stooges for also being incompetent.  So, say, The Stooges making a mess of the horse, like in the preview print, would work great for them, but not for Keaton, a deadpan comedian who usually has more cleverness of gag than incompetence.  What is in the new print is a great mid short chase between Keaton and Joe Roberts (who is wonderful here).  Some fantastic stuff, like Keaton losing the wheel and running over Big Joe, locking Joe in the building, avoiding Joe on a pulley, and the absolute classic silhouetted girl getting dressed in the window.  Both Buster and Joe see a striking figure in the window, stop their chase, pull up a seat, sit down together, and admire the silhouetted female getting dressed.  The second the show is over, they resume their chase.  That's clever and funny, and much more suits Keaton than being a buffoon and getting oil on a horse.

          THE BLACKSMITH, even in it's release print, is not a perfect film.  After the initial proposal scene, things become suddenly episodic with the introduction of characters who would chase Keaton at the end, and the ruining of the car gag keeps some of the unnecessary Stooge humor, but there's still some cool stuff.  Always have loved the magnet gag in the beginning, a wonderful sight gag that has always stuck with me memory wise and defined this short in my mind.  I also dig Keaton using the kid's balloon to hold the car up as he puts on the tire and love the way Big Joe tries to hit Keaton with the car door yet misses as Keaton is under the open window portion of the car door.  A mini precursor to the more famous open window gag in STEAMBOAT BILL, JR.

          We're onto Keaton's "weak" shorts now and so many lesser comedians would kill to make films this good.  Keaton in the twenties is truly one of the mind blowingly awesome artistic runs in my world.  As far as better official versions showing up during a prime run, let's hope EVEN AS I.O.U. was a preview tease and they'll discover the real version soon.  I'm not holding my breath.

    8/10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Blacksmith (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #6 on: August 13, 2017, 11:42:04 PM »
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  • weird scene in the middle of the chase in which Keaton and Roberts watch a woman undressing through her window that comes off as a bit too creepy.

    In real life, yes, creepy. In a comedy, I'm cool with it.