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  • Writer's pictureDomenic

The Shorts of Buster Keaton| Collection Review

Updated: May 31, 2022

In the minds of many, including me, Buster Keaton was the king of the silent era. Charlie Chaplin may have had sentimental narratives and Harold Loyd may have had daredevil stunts, but Keaton combined both of these into an unparalleled career. My introduction to Keaton's filmography was with Sherlock Jr. (my definite favorite of his and the film tied with my favorite of all time) and gradually shifted between his shorts and his feature-lengths. I used to prefer Chaplin to Keaton, but over time, my opinion gradually changed. I still greatly admire and love Chaplin's films, but Keaton's films have definitely overpowered that.

Keaton's feature-length movies never, in any way, overshadow his masterpiece shorts. They do exemplify his knack as an actor, comedian, director, stuntman, and writer, but his early efforts (shorts) are nearly as effective. One Week immediately put Keaton's name on the map. It showed that his skill in perfectly timed gags and daredevil stunts were a force to be reckoned with. One Week hasn't aged a bit, which is a testament to the eternal greatness of Buster Keaton's catalog of films. His later works would further exemplify his mastery of the art of cinema.

Of all the Keaton shorts I've seen thus far, Cops! is definitely my favorite. It's a pre-Sherlock Jr. combination of the best of Keaton's career. I think that Keaton recognized the importance and greatness found in this short because he "reused" an iconic image from this in a later feature (Seven Chances). The short seems to zoom by, regardless of the runtime. His shorts are all incredibly well made, but Cops! seems to be the one that most highlighted his talent. Up until Sherlock Jr, this was his magnum opus. If I included films under 40-mins in my grading, the Cops! would be an immediate 99.

There will probably never be another actor or director like Buster Keaton. He managed to carry a distinct style behind and in front of the camera. Someone can easily point out any Keaton stunt. The same goes for any Keaton-directed film. He was most likely the first auteur filmmaker and director, perhaps excluding D.W. Griffith. His work showcased the best parts of silent cinema. Chaplin came extremely close, but didn't capture the same energy. They rivaled each other for years, but Keaton was the on that came out on top. For a while, critics greater appreciated Chaplin's films compared to Keaton. Yet, since around the late 1990s, a Keaton film has repeatedly made any best film of all time list. Nonetheless, watching a Buster Keaton film is the same as watching the best films, stunts, and acting of all time.

Time Stamp: December 2020

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