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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Spoof > Ships > Family > Silent > Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928/Kino International Blu-ray)

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928/Kino International Blu-ray)


Picture: B†††† Sound: B†††† Extras: B-†††† Film: B



Buster Keaton is a comedy genius and though he had a career after the silent era ended, he did not get the work he deserved yet remained an icon, even if it was as a new variant of himself.However, his early works are all amazing and original and some are masterpieces like The General (already on Blu-ray from Kino) and the follow-up film Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) is one of his greatest, now also on Blu-ray from Kino.


Like Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chase and Charlie Chaplin, Keaton was a master of comedy, comic timing and still remained an amazing actor.He was also very athletic and his physical comedy is tremendous and so tremendously influential that you could do a book on it.Here, he is the estranged son of a ship captain, William ďSteamboat BillĒ Canfield, Sr. (Ernest Torrence).Junior is a college student who then turns up on that ship in competition with another ship and his fatherís rival (Tom McGuire) is the father of the lady (Marion Byron) in his life.When a real hurricane is on the way, the figurative one all are holding back is going to break loose in ways no one expects.


Carl Harbaugh wrote the screenplay, but the actors bring it to life and this would be the last big film Keatonís studio would ever make.It features classic scenes, including one of the most imitated of all time, but you should watch it instead of just hearing about it for the best impact.There are two versions of this classic here, one from Keatonís Estate and the other from the great Killiam Shows Archive in an era when you would get more than one version of a film and so many decades later when too many silent classics have been lost forever.


I like both and it shows just how creative all involved were.Once again, Blu-ray brings silent films back to life as only a film print in a theater (or at home) otherwise could, bringing on a new appreciation and respect for the earliest years (and essentially foundation) of motion picture cinema as we know it.This runs only 70 minutes, yet it is a very thorough experience and remains an all-time comedy classic that will endure for centuries to come.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital black and white High Definition image (bookended on the sides by black bars) was lensed by Directors of Cinematography Bert Haines and Devereaux Jennings, who lensed most of Keatonís triumphs of the time.72 years later, the film is here in two versions and they look about as good as they are ever going to, cleaned and upgraded to bring out as much detail and depth as possible.The result is one of the most watchable transfers of a silent classic I have seen to date.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix is a performance of instrumental music by The Biograph Players that is sonically fine with a soundfield as good as DTS MA mix (as before on Battleship Potemkin) as the many Classical Blu-rays we have covered (and still cover) from the Naxos-distributed family of music labels, but we also get just as engaging stereo scores: Organ by Lee Erwin and Piano by William Perry.Of course, it works great silent as well, so that is plenty of choices to enjoy and re-enjoy two different cuts of the film.


Extras include two vintage recordings of songs from the film, Stills Gallery, documentary on the making of the film and a musical montage of pratfalls and stunts called Why They Call Him Buster.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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