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Author Topic: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton  (Read 188 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
« on: August 19, 2017, 06:51:58 AM »
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  • Watch THE FROZEN NORTH in the link box above and get the Damfino's note here:
    http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/B15_The_Frozen_North.html

    From Lisle Foote of the Damfinos: "Not all of The Frozen North makes sense, probably because it's fragmented. But I have no doubt that it was pretty weird when it was whole. It's odd to see Keaton playing a would be thief, murderer, wife-abuser, and adulterer, even if it's only a dream - and a parody. Nevertheless, the jokes work, even if you've never seen the Hart films he's spoofing."

    Now, I know I am going to get ripped for this, but this is one of my favorite silent Keaton shorts.  This short was made at the height of the Roscoe Arbuckle trial, and the script is appropriate as the original version Keaton modified was written by Roscoe.  Herein, he takes potshots at William S. Hart, who made an arse of himself by going around spewing his certainty of Arbuckle's guilt.

    Lisle Foote's assessment is about perfect.  The only thing I'd add is that Keaton fails at 3 of those... miserably.  Nevertheless, we see Keaton truly displaying all of his talents: mechanical, emotional, comical, and parodic.  This is about the only time you'll see Keaton kick someone, let alone Joe Roberts!

    Mechanically, we see the typical Keaton fare, such as the various sled gags.  Emotionally, we see his parodic mockery of Hart's signature glycerin tears after he murders the couple before resuming Keatonian sheepishness of tipping his hat and leaving, albeit without guilt.  He makes a frighteningly good womanizer both when shoving his own wife and when getting ready to assault Bonnie Hill.  He's comical, when he, dressed in a white suit, magically appears behind closed doors, when he's stepping off the "grass," and when he falls through an igloo while brooding.  Carpet sweepers, guitars, snowshoes used as baseball bats, and bears appear along the way.  But the greatest parody of all is when he pulls that bottle of Coke out of his pocket and swigs it like a pirate with hard whiskey.

    Much like THE GENERAL, this is not the typical Keaton comedy, but it nevertheless makes for a fantastic film.

    10/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]

    P.S. There are two Three Stooges gag and one Laurel and Hardy gag in this film.  Can you spot them?
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: August 20, 2017, 09:43:43 AM »
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  •       The whole point of THE FROZEN NORTH has dated and would be lost on 99.99% of the general public, though this doesn't make it a less enjoyable film.  Still, I would not introduce someone to Keaton with this short, as this short is meant to be Keaton acting out of character.  The dream ending is Keaton's way of saying this is not the real Keaton, and the whole point that has dated, something an audience of 1922 would understand, is that Keaton is parodying film stars of the day, the main one being cowboy actor William S. Hart.  The whole tear sequence angered William S. Hart to the point where he didn't speak to Keaton for two years.  I will also mention that as a silent film buff myself, Hart is one of the few major silent film stars who I have not seen a film of yet, so I need to remedy this.  Also, later in the film, when Keaton turns into that monocled aristocrat - that would be a parody of Erich Von Stroheim.  Again, only hardened silent and old Hollywood buffs would get that today, but back in 1922, common knowledge.  Von Stroheim would most famously be linked to Keaton twenty eight years later as they both played silent film relics in Billy Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD, a film I highly recommend.

          Also, another treat for silent film fans in the scenery in this one.  Filmed in snowy Truckee, CA., three years later, Charlie Chaplin would film THE GOLD RUSH in the same location, and yeah, the films have a similar look.  Keaton even rests his cane in the snow, cane digging in the snow, causing Keaton to fall, just like Chaplin.

          As far as gags, let's see...the ice fishing gag, as well as the guitars on feet as snowshoe gag, are from ROCKIN' THRU THE ROCKIES.  The idea of singing maudlin acoustic guitar music in an igloo causing the comic to cry was later done in W.C. Fields THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER, directed by Clyde Bruckman.  As far as Laurel and Hardy gag, you got me on that one, though when someone points it out to me, I'm sure I'll smack my head because I should've known the answer.

           On a personal level, I'm going to give this a 10/10 with the admission that I'm a silent film nerd who would find things in this film the average person would not.  The other great Keaton films, though, no background is needed, and yes, this film has grown on me over the years.  It is fun for one time seeing Keaton play an adulterer, a murderer, a thief, and badly act on purpose taking a bullet in the back.  Not standard Keaton fare, but I'm really happy this short exists.  I wish it even existed more, because yes, what we have is incomplete.  With an eighteen minute running time, I would imagine two - seven minutes are missing.  If any film preserver finds a complete print and packages these shorts again, they'll get my money.

    10/10

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: August 20, 2017, 10:44:49 AM »
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  • For the most part, I do think that Keaton's parody works very well, even if it is very dated by today's standards. Seeing Keaton as a villain is definitely an interesting idea and some of the darker gags, such as Keaton shooting the wrong couple or attempting to rob a saloon, do work very well. Keaton also is creative with ideas such as using a cutout of a robber or disguising himself as a snowman. Also, to be fair, the short does survive incomplete, so the very fast pace towards the end can be attributed towards this.

    Honestly, I think that you guys are 100% correct with your assessments. The location is nice, the parody is good, and even the non-parody gags like the ice-fishing gag are really good. I had trouble thinking of why I don't think as highly of it as both of you. After thinking about it for a while, I think that my major problem is towards the end when Keaton is forcing himself into Bonnie Hill's house. Don't get me wrong, his von Stroheim impersonation is spot on, but just the way it plays out with Bonnie Hill being legitimately scared and crying feels like it goes way too far, especially for a comedy short. The fact that it is so fragmented towards the end is even worse because it just makes me wonder what exactly Keaton ended up doing to her. Even though he's the villain and it ends up being a dream anyway, it does bring down the short quite a bit for me.

    So, in the end, I do think that it is good and definitely better than MY WIFE'S RELATIONS, but the somewhat uncomfortable nature of it towards the end is a bit too much for me and, without a doubt, this is not the short you want to introduce to people as their first Keaton film. Definitely an interesting short and it does stand out among his other shorts, but, personally, this is one that I don't think of as highly as his other shorts.

    8 out of 10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: August 20, 2017, 01:18:38 PM »
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  • After thinking about it for a while, I think that my major problem is towards the end when Keaton is forcing himself into Bonnie Hill's house. Don't get me wrong, his von Stroheim impersonation is spot on, but just the way it plays out with Bonnie Hill being legitimately scared and crying feels like it goes way too far, especially for a comedy short. The fact that it is so fragmented towards the end is even worse because it just makes me wonder what exactly Keaton ended up doing to her. Even though he's the villain and it ends up being a dream anyway, it does bring down the short quite a bit for me.

    It is the dream aspect and the pure knowledge this is parody which is why I don't take a single dramatic aspect of the short seriously.  Otherwise I'd agree with you.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: August 20, 2017, 03:09:50 PM »
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  • As far as Laurel and Hardy gag, you got me on that one, though when someone points it out to me, I'm sure I'll smack my head because I should've known the answer.

    In BIG BUSINESS, we see Ollie hitting the breakables with a shovel, which he smashes baseball bat style.   [3stooges]
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: August 20, 2017, 07:58:50 PM »
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  • Boy, this one was tough, a lot of it because of the bad transfer.  It's as hard to get into the comedy as it is trying to get into the music on a bad CD.  Not blaming Paul Pain or anyone here, obviously, I'm sure this is the best that can be found, and let's face it, it's almost 100 years old, but whew.  And what I would have done without Metal's road map, I just don't know, and I'm not a complete ignoramus about silents.  Once Metal pointed them out, I recognized W S Hart mainly from the hat, and Von Stroheim as well, and Joe Roberts playing the guitar was instantly reminiscent of The Fatal Glass of Beer.  On the other hand, who was Joe Roberts supposed to be, kissing Buster's hand?  Gloria Swanson in Male and Female?  I'm asking that more or less seriously, if I'm right it's the funniest parody in the whole flick.
         Very gimmicky, indeed - I got the feeling after a while that you could have put Ben Turpin in Buster's place with no trouble at all. Since parody was Turpin's strong suit, it might have even been an improvement.  I say that to be outrageous, but I see very little of Keaton's genius in this one.
         I end up in Truckee about once a year on business, and it sure doesn't look like this.  Of course, I'm usually there in July, which might account for the difference.

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Frozen North (1922) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #6 on: September 06, 2017, 12:41:24 AM »
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  • http://moviessilently.com/2014/04/22/the-frozen-north-1922-a-silent-film-review/

          A fantastic article about THE FROZEN NORTH that pays special attention to the William S. Hart aspect.  She is a Hart aficionado and really is able to put Hart and Keaton into perspective as far as THE FROZEN NORTH goes.  I really need to see some of Hart's films, and she's correct about knowing the surrounding films of the era lead to greater appreciation of the comedies.  Speaking of which, we're doing THE THREE AGES in a few weeks, so set aside three and a half hours and check out INTOLERANCE (1916), on a television screen if possible.  That Babylonian scenery must be appreciated on a good screen. I have it on DVD, I'm due a fresh look, but yes, Keaton spoofs INTOLERANCE.

         The entire blog the article is linked to from above I have saved in my favorites, well worth checking out for silent film fans.