“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
9 out of 10