Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928/Kino International Blu-ray)
B Sound: B Extras: B- Film: B
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.
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 “Steamboat Bill” Canfield, Sr. (Ernest Torrence). Junior is a college student who then turns up
on that ship in competition with another ship and his father’s 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
wrote the screenplay, but the actors bring it to life and this would be the
last big film Keaton’s 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 Keaton’s 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.
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.
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 Keaton’s 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.
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.
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