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Author Topic: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton  (Read 421 times)

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Offline Paul Pain

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Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
« on: February 14, 2018, 10:23:17 AM »
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  • Watch PEST FROM THE WEST in the box above and get the Damfino's note here:
    http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/F01_Pest_From_the_West.html

    We begin the first of Buster Keaton's Columbia shorts, and it's one of his better efforts.  PEST FROM THE WEST isn't a great short by any stretch, but it's good relative to Buster's Columbia oeuvre.  This is, in part, due to the direction of the great Del Lord.  Supposedly, this was the only short Keaton thought was any decent.  Of course, this is a remake of his five reel 1935 British-made movie, THE INVADER, and those who have seen both will provide interesting reviews.  We may review THE INVADER later if circumstances permit.

    This short works because it deals with the typical Buster foil of love.  The problem is that these shorts go too much toward the Elmer character, especially once Jules White took over (which was after this short).  We get to see lots of Buster's signature pratfalls, but we see too much typical Columbia violence which, while funny, isn't Buster at all in addition to the mixed Elmer-like behavior.

    This short is, as it's own, a good effort.  Buster portrays a rich man vacationing in Mexico, where he falls in love.  In typical comedic fashion, he does anything he can to impress her, dominated by the interlude of Buster going to and from his ship, which I shan't spoil for those who haven't seen this.  Just know, it's the best camera trick I've ever seen in any Columbia short subject, including Three Stooges' shorts.  The scenes with the ukelele are where Buster seems most like himself, as well as when he's arranging the duel with the glove slapping.  It's interesting trickery that leads to the resolution of the plot, the bizarrely humorous "duel" scene.

    Overall, not the bad of an effort, but still not Buster.

    As a short: 8/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
    As Buster: 7/10 [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke] [poke]
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 02:07:59 PM »
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  • O K, I don't want to be a spoiler either, but I have to know:  does the camera trick involve Gino Corrado?

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #2 on: February 15, 2018, 06:10:31 PM »
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  • O K, I don't want to be a spoiler either, but I have to know:  does the camera trick involve Gino Corrado?

    No, it involves the process of jumping on and off the boat.
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #3 on: February 15, 2018, 09:17:58 PM »
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  • In that case, you got me.  The one I noticed is where Gino Corrado morphs into Cy Schindell and back again.  Twice.

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #4 on: February 16, 2018, 11:51:50 AM »
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  • “Original Screenplay by Clyde Bruckman.” Sure, let’s go with that.

    PEST FROM THE WEST is a very refreshing change of pace from what metaldams and I have had to watch the past month. Even without that being taken into account, though, PEST FROM THE WEST is a very solid entry in Keaton’s catalogue of short subjects.

    So let’s start by addressing how it compares to THE INVADER. This is a rare case where the remake actually is better than the original. As a matter of fact, it’s a lot better than the original and a lot of that has to do with the shorter running time. The original didn’t feel like it had much thought put into it and a lot of it relied on filler dance and song sequences in order to stretch it out to feature length. I dare say that I found it to be worse than most of Keaton’s MGM output (outside of FREE AND EASY, of course). There were a few moments that showed promise, like the scene of Keaton attempting to serenade the girl he’s in love with, and it is these moments that are thankfully included and perfected in this short.

    One thing I’d also like to address is Keaton’s condition. I don’t know exactly if he had recovered from his alcoholism by this point, but judging from how he looks here compared to WHAT! NO BEER? and THE INVADER, he seems to have at least been in somewhat better control by this time and he actually feels very invested in what he’s doing. He does quite a bit of running around and gets plenty of moments to do physical routines and it really does feel like his old enthusiasm has returned. Even during the dance routine where he’s stuck in one place, he really feels like he’s giving so much effort to something that shouldn’t be that funny, but it is because of how much he’s putting into it.

    Del Lord and the supporting cast deserve lots of praise, too, for taking something that was originally so lifeless and actually making it fun. Lorna Gray replaces Lupita Tovar, best known for her role in the Spanish-Language version of DRACULA, so she has some pretty big shoes to fill and does very well at it, perhaps even better since she isn’t forced to do a bunch of pointless dance numbers. We also get some other great Columbia stock players to round out the cast: Bud Jamison, Eddie Laughton, Ned Glass, and, as Big Chief pointed out, Cy Schindell even doubles for Gino Corrado a couple of times.

    Not much is added in this version that wasn’t in the original. The most notable addition was the recurring gag with Keaton running to and from his boat. The timing from both Keaton and the sailors is pretty good and it has some variety to it that makes it never feel like it’s being overused.

    It is odd to hear the Columbia sound effects being used here. I found it especially odd to hear the head bonking sound effect when Keaton accidentally hit himself in the chin. Still, they are great sound effects and were especially effective during Keaton’s serenading scene.

    The last thing I’ll address is the Elmer character and, yeah, a lot of the plot is based around Keaton’s gullibility. However, Keaton actually is able to accomplish his goal and is clever enough to trick both of Conchita’s boyfriends, so I think that it can get a pass for the most part. I really enjoyed this short and can only hope there’s at least one more short of this quality (from what it sounds like, there probably isn’t [cry]).

    9 out of 10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #5 on: February 17, 2018, 11:56:32 AM »
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  • Will watch this later tonight or tomorrow and review, but I want to address two things in Umbrella Sam's post.

    One is I totally forgot Lupita Tovar was in THE INVADER!  She just passed away pretty recently at age 106!  I haven't watched THE INVADER in years, but wouldn't mind doing so at some point.

    Secondly, with Keaton's condition.  By the time he got to Columbia, his alcoholism, by all accounts, was under control and was for the most part the rest of his life.  He was married to his third and final wife, Eleanor, by this point which did wonders for his happiness.  Keaton's problems lasted the mid to late 30's or so, but he picked himself back up.

    Offline Tony Bensley

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #6 on: February 17, 2018, 04:27:43 PM »
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  • Perhaps it was just my mood, but I found this short to be good, but not great.  I was actually already familiar with one of its highlights, the "In A Little Spanish Town" bit, as it is included in the TCM Original Documentary ADDED ATTRACTIONS: THE HOLLYWOOD SHORTS STORY (2002), that's on my Laurel and Hardy TCM Archives Collection (2006) DVD set.

    So, Lorna Gray and Lupita Tovar (Who played essentially the same roles!) lived a combined 205 years.  Interesting that Lorna apparently wasn't Latina, although she sure looked convincing to this gringo!

    PEST FROM THE WEST gets 7 out of 10 Ukelele Strings.

    CHEERS!  [pie]

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #7 on: February 17, 2018, 06:43:25 PM »
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  • The last thing I’ll address is the Elmer character and, yeah, a lot of the plot is based around Keaton’s gullibility. However, Keaton actually is able to accomplish his goal and is clever enough to trick both of Conchita’s boyfriends, so I think that it can get a pass for the most part. I really enjoyed this short and can only hope there’s at least one more short of this quality (from what it sounds like, there probably isn’t [cry]).

    Some shorts are more Elmer; others are more Buster.  You'll find out the hard way as we go along.
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    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #8 on: February 17, 2018, 08:09:59 PM »
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  • I give up...I watched the whole thing again with emphasis on the boat scenes.  I saw no special effects other than Cy doubling Carrado.  What are you seeing that I'm not?

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #9 on: February 18, 2018, 05:29:42 AM »
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  • I give up...I watched the whole thing again with emphasis on the boat scenes.  I saw no special effects other than Cy doubling Carrado.  What are you seeing that I'm not?

    You didn't notice the unusual camera angles showing people jumping on and off the boat?  That's something you NEVER see in a Columbia short... ever, but here it is!
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    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #10 on: February 18, 2018, 07:50:25 AM »
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  •       I'll start with my thoughts on Keaton at Columbia.  He will never have the budgets, time, or creative freedom he had in his independent silent days, so I can understand Keaton fans being down on these shorts who are not Stooge or Columbia shorts fans.   Heck, Keaton himself was.  However, I'm a Keaton fan who came to him through the influence he had on Columbia shorts, namely The Three Stooges.  One always hears about stories, gags, and writers being used from Keaton films in Stooge shorts.  Since I'm a Stooge/Columbia shorts fan and a Buster fan, I love seeing Buster in this environment, plus I think it's great Buster time with Columbia was the late thirties and early forties, just as the shorts department hit a big creative peak.  So yeah, it's again enjoying these films for what they are versus what they're not.

          PEST FROM THE WEST is a nice start to the Columbia series.  It has a nice running gag, literally, of Buster running back and forth to his boat, which has a nice lack of communication between him and his sailors and an excuse for some physical comedy.  Like Paul, I won't do a spoiler.  Buster does seem to be in good energy here, sliding and gliding across the screen to see the girl he desires, and I gotta dig that subtle gag where he takes her long dress, puts the dress on the table and then puts his elbow on the dress to stop her and get her attention.  Funny, physical comic bit.

          The supporting cast in this one is fantastic, with Lorna Gray as the girl, plus Richard Fiske (I get a laugh the way he brags about being a bullfighter, the way he comically props himself up), Gino Corrado, and Bud Jamison.  Lorna Gray is fantastic as usual, love the little eye rolls she does and the fact she blatantly plays a woman who juggles her men.  The ending, which I won't give away, is classic Keaton wit and really displays this aspect to her character.

          The scene where he serenades Lorna with a ukelele is the most famous bit in the short, and is fantastic in its timing.  Keaton does an almost Edgar Kennedy slow burn, but he never totally boils over.  Also, listen carefully to the soundtrack in that wonderful bit where Keaton and Gino Corrado take turns slamming the cellar door on each other.  When Corrado falls in the basement, the yell dubbed over is none other than that of Curly Howard.

          A really fun short.  Yeah, this one's better than all the MGM talkies.

    9/10

    Offline Big Chief Apumtagribonitz

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    Re: Pest from the West (1939) - Buster Keaton
    « Reply #11 on: February 21, 2018, 11:21:15 AM »
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  • Paul Pain, I'm either blind as a bat or dumb as a post, I still don't see any special camera work.  One shot from the side, and one from the back.  Spoil it for me, please.