THE GREAT BUSTER: A CELEBRATION – A Review by John Strange
I love film. And history. And I love documentary films about film’s greats. The Great Buster is about the genius that was Buster Keaton. Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton was the first son of a vaudeville family. Almost from the first time he came onstage during one of his parent's performances (at eighteen months of age) he was a hit! It didn’t take long for him to become a star on the circuit (his age was in single digits!). His nickname "Buster" is reported to have come from family friend, Harry Houdini. After watching the young child tumble down a set of stairs and sit up and shake it off, Mr. Houdini is said to have remarked, "That was a great buster (fall)!"
Mr. Bogdanovich tells the story of the life of the man who is the Godfather of the pratfalls and their associated sight gags that have been the hallmark of some pretty amazing comedians over the decades. Some of the greats like Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Werner Herzog, and Dick Van Dyke tell stories about their interactions with Buster. Younger comedians like Bill Hader, Nick Kroll, French Stewart, and Johnny Knoxville also chime in with stories of how Buster influenced their careers.
Buster Keaton started in the film business working for and then with Fatty Arbuckle at Keystone Studios. The two found a goldmine with their “two reelers”. “Two reelers” were films that were shipped to theaters on two reels and ran about 20 minutes in length. The two made several films together before Fatty was lured away to one of the big studios to make feature films.
Eventually, Buster was lured away as well. However, instead of taking his true talents to heart, something that would have made them a LOT of money, the studio tried to force him into their style of comedy. All people have high and low periods of their life. This eventually became one of his lows.
This film from Peter Bogdanovich is filled with clips from Buster’s “two reelers” and feature films. Something kids today probably don’t know is that Buster planned his stunts with a level of skill no one else of his time could. When he did a stunt, he knew exactly how it would go down. This is shown to us with some great clips that detailed what he had to do and how they looked in the final cut of the film.
Buster Keaton’s influence began on the Vaudeville stage and grew as he progressed to film. The man had a genius for making audiences laugh. If you love film and admire the truly great artists of the silent era, then this is a must-see film for you.
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Buster Keaton, Peter Bogdanovich, Mel Brooks, Bill Hader, Werner Herzog, Nick Kroll, Carl Reiner, Cybill Shepherd, French Stewart, Quentin Tarantino, Jon Watts, Orson Welles, Richard Lewis, Dick Van Dyke, Johnny Knoxville
MPAA Rating: NR
Selig Rating: A+
Runtime: 102 Min.
Movie Site: http://cohenmedia.net/films/thegreatbuster
The Selig Rating
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.