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