Go West and Battling Buttler (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
September 12, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Two exciting and hilarious Buster Keaton films on one Blu-ray! Highly entertaining, hilarious and all-out fun! For Buster Keaton fans or fans of silent comedies, this double feature Blu-ray release featuring “Go West” and “Battling Butler” is highly recommended!
TITLE: Go West and Battling Butler
FILM RELEASE: Go West (1925), Battling Buttler (1926)
DURATION: Go West (68 Minutes), Battling Buttler (85 Minutes)
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: B&W, Color-Tinted, 1080i High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Written and Directed by Buster Keaton
Assistant Writer: Lex Neal
Scenario by Raymond Cannon
Music Composed and Performed by Eric Beheim
Produced by Buster Keaton, Joseph M. Schenck
Cinematography by Bert Haines, Elgin Lessley
Art Direction: Fred Gabourie
Directed by Buster Keaton
Written by Paul Giard Smith, Al Boastberg, Charles Henry Smith, Lex Neal
Original Book of Musical Play by Stanley Brightman, Austin Melford
Cinematography by Bert Haines, Devereaux Jennings
Music Arranged and Directed by Robert Israel
Buster Keaton as Friendless
Howard Truesdael as Owner of the Diamond Bar Ranch
Kathleen Myers as the Daughter
Ray Thompson as the Foreman
Brown Eyes as Herself
Buster Keaton as Alfred Butler
Snitz Edwards as His Valet
Sally O’Neil as The Mountain Girl
Walter James as Her Father
Budd Fine as Her Brother
Francis McDonald as Alfred Battling Butler
Mary O’Brien as His Wife
Tom Wilson as His Trainer
Eddie Borden as His Manager
With his trademark deadpan demeanor and his gift for inventive visual humor, Buster Keaton’s unique brand of comedy has proven to be a timeless source of laughter and an enduring influence upon several generations of screen comics. This Ultimate Edition showcases two of Keaton’s lesser known films, newly mastered in HD from the 35mm nitrate elements preserved by the Library of Congress.
In GO WEST, Keaton plays an idealistic young man known as “Friendless,” who rides the rails to a dude ranch, forms a sentimental attachment with an especially lovable cow, and, in the film’s breathtaking climax, finds himself at the center of cattle stampede through the streets of Los Angeles.
Based on a popular stage musical, BATTLING BUTLER stars Keaton as a pampered socialite who pretends to be a famed prizefighter in order to impress his girlfriend’s bullying brothers. Once begun, however, the charade is not easy to end, and Butler – aided by his personal butler (Snitz Edwards) – must endure physical training, sparring, and, unless he can stop it, a title bout with the “Alabama Murderer.”
Exciting, enjoyable and the magnificent physical comedy of one of the greatest stars of all time…Buster Keaton!
Have you been wanting more Buster Keaton on Blu-ray! Kino Lorber has a new Blu-ray release planned for Sept. 2011 with the release of “Go West” (1925) and “Battling Buttler” (1926).
“Go West” is a film written and directed by Buster Keaton and it was a film in which Keaton wanted to capture the realistic scenery by filming in the deserts of Arizona (something that his film crew did not want to do because of the extreme heat). In fact, during the filming of “Go West”, the film had to be reshot a few times because the film stock melted and the crew realized, the only way this film was going to be made is by quick thing and that was to submerged their cameras in ice to keep cameras operable and film stock intact.
The film also became one of Keaton’s most expensive films ever made as it required a stampede of cows, especially having the cows walk through the city.
In 1925, the film didn’t exactly do great in the box office but many years later, many fans of Keaton’s silent films do feel that it’s one of his most entertaining silent comedies.
“Go West” revolves around a man known as Friendless (played by Buster Keaton), who has sold everything in order to move from Indiana and travel out to the west.
He manages to find himself near the Diamond Bar Ranch and although he knows nothing about ranch life or taking care of animals, needing a job and wanting to make money, Friendless takes a cowboy outfit and eventually gets a job.
But despite not knowing how to milk a cow or how to ride a horse and bring cows in to their stable, Friendless meets a cow named Brown Eyes who is unable to walk due to having a rock caught in her paw. Friendless removes the rock and immediately both Friendless and Brown Eyes become friends.
But when all the cows must be branded and sent to the slaughterhouse, Friendless will do all he can to prevent his new friend from getting hurt and killed.
In the 1926 film “Battling Butler”, But Keaton plays the role as Alfred Butler, the child of a wealthy aristocrat, who feels that his son has grown up too comfortably and has not become a real man.
So, the spoiled Alfred is sent on a hunting trip in the mountains and is accompanied by his valet (played by Snitz Edward) but for Alfred, instead of taking on the role of a hunter, he brings his wealthy life to the hunting ground, with a very large tent, oven, tables, bed and bath. As well, as bringing his tuxedo and other garments. Also, while camping out in the mountains, Alfred’s valet discovers that a boxer is using his name and is known as Alfred “Battling” Butler. Alfred requests his valet to contact the boxer and to not use his name.
As Alfred knows nothing about hunting, nor does he know how to use a firearm and ends up nearly shooting the mountain girl (played by Sally O’Neil) and needless to say, their first exchange is not pleasant. But for Alfred, he is amused to find a woman so brash. But is charmed by her and now wants to marry her.
While trying to catch a fish, Alfred falls of his boat and is rescued by the mountain girl and invites her to dinner near his tent. While having dinner, the mountain girl’s father and brother comes to check out the man that the mountain girl is with and does not want her to be near someone that is so weak.
So, to defend his master’s name, the valet tells the father and brother that Alfred is a professional boxer and shows them the newspaper. He tells them that they are in the mountains and he is training.
Feeling that now he is a tough man, they give Alfred the permission to marry the mountain girl if he wins his upcoming boxing match.
Feeling the pressure of their lie, when Alfred and his valet go to watch the live boxing match, Alfred “Battling” Butler manages to win and becomes the championship boxer.
For Alfred, the good is that he would now get to marry the mountain girl and when he goes back to the mountains, the whole village has a parade for Alfred and immediately, a wedding ceremony. Alfred is happy that he has a wife but just when he thought the lie of being a professional boxer would end, news circulates that Alfred “Battling” Butler will be defending his title in a bout against the “Alabama Murderer”.
And to make things worse, now Alfred must continue the charade and stay and train in the same area where the real boxer is at to fool his wife. But when the real Alfred “Battling” Butler catches wind of Alfred Butler’s lie, the boxer then chooses Alfred to fight the real boxing matching against the “Alabama Murderer” and for his trainers to get him ready for the real boxing match.
Will Alfred Butler have any chance in fighting against a real boxer?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Go West” (1925) and “Battling Butler” (1926) receives its HD release and are presented in black and white while the latter does have color-tinting. Having previously owned “The Art of Buster Keaton” Kino DVD boxset, I can easily say that these two films do look great on Blu-ray. The contrast looks great, the films look sharp and these are the best version of both films via picture quality to date.
While “Go West” is the better of the two when it comes to picture quality, both still manage to look better than its DVD counterpart in the fact that the whites and grays show awesome contrast, much more detail and black levels are nice and deep. You do see lines and white specks from time-to-time on “Battling Butler” but by no means does it take away from the viewing of these two films.
The fact that both of these films show no major nitrate degradation and are complete films is a major plus and have no doubt that Keaton fans will agree that the picture quality for both films are very good!
As for the audio, for “Go West”, the music is composed and performed by Eric Beheim and “Battling Butler” features music arranged and directed by Robert Israel. There are no alternate soundtracks but for those who enjoyed the music from the previous DVD release, will be happy that they are featured in the Blu-ray release.
The music for both films are well done and compliment the film just perfectly!
“Go West” comes with the following special features:
- Go West – A 12 minute comedy short produced by Hal Roach and features the trained monkeys (The Dippy Do Dads).
- 60-Minute Audio Recording – An audio recording of Buster Keaton working on a script proposal for the Western TV series “Wagon Train” (courtesy of Bob Bergen).
- Photo Gallery – Production stills from “Go West”.
“Battling Butler” comes with the following special features:
- Screenplay Excerpt – A screenplay excerpt featuring text on the unproduced remake of “Battling Butler” written by Keaton in 1947.
- Gallery – Gallery of photographs from the 1922 stage production of “Battling Butler”.
- Photo Gallery – Production stills from “Battling Butler”.
“Go West and Battling Buttler” comes with a slipcase cover.
Once again, Buster Keaton fans are treated with two more films from the filmmaker’s oeuvre showcasing his physical comedy as an actor but also his directorial and screenplay writing efforts in “Go West” and directorial effort for the film adaptation of the stage play “Battling Butler”.
Both films precede his “The General” (1927) and “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” but there was no doubt that Buster Keaton, a perfectionist, would cause concern with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with “Go West” as it was an expensive film that required multiple do-overs because of filming in the desert of Arizona proved to be problematic for the cameras and the film stock.
While “Go West” would showcase Buster Keaton as a cowboy, it was a silent comedy western that was unlike any Western ever made and still is a unique film that holds up perfectly well in 2011. In 1925, Buster Keaton brought in a large numer of cows to walk the streets of Hollywood. Just watching the scene of, who knows how many cows were featured, walking through the city of Los Angeles in broad daylight was accomplished.
It’s probably the only film in which a woman is not Buster Keaton’s leading lady but a cow named Brown Eyes who is his true friend throughout the film and the female that he is trying to protect. It really is an absurd film but it is a hilarious film that showcases Keaton’s comedy. From being a cowboy that doesn’t know how to milk a cow, nor does he know how to ride a horse or to lasso a young cow, “Go West” is a film that provides a lot of laughs but a stampede sequence that is literally shocking when you watch it today.
As for “Battling Butler”, this is a straight-up Buster Keaton film that takes misunderstandings and lies to make for one exciting sports film. In fact, I’m not really sure if “Battling Butler” is the first boxing film ever created but what we do know is that it is an adaptation of a popular Broadway play that ran from 1923-1924 and that the film was Keaton’s most financially successful feature film in the box office.
Keaton has said that “Battling Butler” is one of his favorite films, despite it being forced on him by Joe Schenck but it’s a wonderful farce as we see Keaton put into a boxing role and having to go one-on-one with experienced boxers.
But in this screenplay, it diverts from the original Broadway play in the fact that fans do get to see Keaton’s character Alfred Butler actually getting into a fight to protect his wife’s honor.
But it’s a hilarious film that is classic Keaton. Farce combined with Keaton’s physical comedy, “Battling Butler” is highly entertaining!
And of the two films, I admit that I am more fond of “Battling Butler” in terms of story but admire the direction of “Go West” because how Keaton directed a large herd of cows through Los Angeles is surprising but yet an amazing thing to watch onscreen. Many decades before CGI and yet, Keaton as always ahead of his time, was able to make it happen.
As for the Blu-ray release, once again…these are the best looking versions of the film to date. In fact, I don’t know if I can even watch my older Kino DVD’s ever again because these films look so fantastic on Blu-ray. Granted, these films were never 100% pristine but the fact that the contrast and overall look of both films are an improvement from the original DVD release is a major plus.
The special features for this latest Blu-ray release offers different special features compared to the previous release. As I would have loved to see the special features on the behind-the-scenes of the making of both films, at least we are given a rare 60-minute audio recording of Keaton working on “Wagon Train” plus an excerpt of the screenplay for the “Battling Butler” 1947-remake. Sure, I would have loved to have additional choices for audio score but the Eric Beheim for “Go West” and the score for “Battling Butler” from Robert Israel which were used on the original DVD release are already wonderful and compliment the films really well!
Overall, if you have been watching the previous Buster Keaton films on Blu-ray, more than likely you will purchase “Go West” and “Battling Butler”. If you are new to Buster Keaton, both films are highly entertaining…are they better than “The General” or “Steamboat Bill Jr.”, in my opinion, definitely not. But these two films are still very entertaining and do a great job of showcasing Keaton’s physical comedy but also his efforts as a director.
Enjoyable, entertaining and fun…these two Keaton classics are definitely worth watching and this Blu-ray release is definitely recommended!
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