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Watch BATTLING BUTER in the box above and get the Damfino's note here: http://www.busterkeaton.com/Films/C08_Battling_Butler.html
I screwed up; I thought this weekend was THE GENERAL. It wasn't. Thread's up though!
I thoroughly enjoyed BATTLING BUTLER in spite of its shortcomings. The opening scenes, in spite of the theater origins of this film, are classic Buster. Only Buster (or maybe Charlie Chaplin) could have a servant take the ashes off of his cigarette for him. The theme of Snitz Edwards "arranging it" throughout the film is, to me, a great little motif.
Buster's definition of "roughing it" is absolutely precious. That setup had: counters, sink, running water, dressers, mirrors, and even a table. The scene where Buster and Sally O'Neil slouch on the table is definitely a comic highlight. Overall, Buster always is at his best when up against towering figures, like the girl's father and brother. It's fun to see the childish love go both ways in a Buster film for once. His scenes with fishing and hunting are quite funny and work nicely to establish the romantic subplot. Even later, he handles himself in true Buster fashion when dealing with Mrs. Battling Butler.
The negatives: I really don't like the whole setup with Buster and the boxer's wife... it's too farfetched and ridiculous for a Buster film. It's even worse than the ridiculousness of the girl's father not figuring out that Buster isn't a boxer. And both aren't as bad as
setting up Buster like that in the first place. It's not perfect, as we've all said.
Buster's boxing scenes are fabulous. I thought these were on part with Shemp's in FRIGHT NIGHT/FLING IN THE RING, although Shemp has the benefit of sound to make it more memorable. But it's CLYDE BRUCKEMAN plagiarism
, after all. The battle between Buster and Butler, though, was absolutely phenomenal. Buster, in a rarity, shows personality, particularly honor, anger, and passion, here, which he had never done before. It's an amazingly dramatic moment interspersed with reminds of the films comedy base that creates an incredible climax.
In spite of its shortcomings, this climax generates a higher rating out of me.