directed by Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
USA

As one of the waxworks playing bridge in Sunset Boulevard (1950), a ravaged Buster Keaton contemplates a dubious hand. With his customary stoicism, he croaks, “Pass.” Then, facing up to lousy luck, his face only slightly dejected, he again says “Pass” more quietly.

This brief appearance in Billy Wilder's mordant classic expresses the essential attitude of his life and work. It is this attitude that makes Buster an important artist, patronized by intellectuals who appreciate his profundity and by mainstream audiences who gasp and giggle at his daring. Dismissing claims to greatness, Keaton insisted again and again that what he was most interested in was getting the laugh.

Like so many film artists, he needed the freedom to create spontaneously if he was to function at his highest level. During the 1920s, he put out a phenomenal array of rarified, perfectly judged features and shorts, a cinematic jewel-box featuring authentic period detail, is-he-really-doing-that? stunts and an enduring persona that qualifies as one of the most poetic reactions to life imaginable. Restrained, unpretentious, pure films, they belie his seemingly disorganized working methods, a series of disparate and largely unnecessary co-directors and the apparent self-destructiveness of his own personality.

Excerpt from Dan Callahan's article at Senses of Cinema located HERE

Theatrical Release: Various from 1917 - 1923

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DVD Comparison:

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL

(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom

Region 0 - PAL

Arte Vidéo - France
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 740 min 713 min
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.8 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.29 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0

Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles none English, French (removable)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• 4 disc box set of 32 silent shorts
• Audio commentary on 6 films by Joseph McBride
• Buster Keaton party audio recording from 1962
• 183 page accompanying booklet

DVD Release Date: Nov. 20, 2006

Release Information:
Studio: Arte Vidéo - France

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• 4 disc box set of 32 silent shorts
• An 11 minute piece itled The Art Of Buster Keaton by French film-maker Pierre Etiax
• 14 minute trailer for DVD releases from Arte Vidéo
 

DVD Release Date: Oct. 25, 2001

 

Comments:

Both editions presented here are from the same sources controlled by France's Lobster Films. The main difference in content is that additional footage has been discovered since the release of the Arte set in 2001, notably a new master of The Cook with three additional minutes of footage that has been restored for the MOC release. Other than that I cannot account for the big disparity in listed running times between the two sets. It would seem that all the known existing prints of the material presented here are in fairly rough shape. In many cases, complete prints of these shorts are not known to exist. These collections, along with other Buster Keaton DVD's available to us, such as the Kino releases, may be as good as it ever gets. It is fortunate that what survives has been dealt with as carefully as it has been. For that I am grateful to companies like Eureka and Arte video.

Transfers: Both sets have the same aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and are windowboxed. The Arte set uses an interlace transfer which is very apparent in the captures. The MOC collection is a progressive transfer but shows remarkably little improvement over the Arte set. In fact, in some of the shorts, the Arte set has the lead in detail and sharpness. Just look at the third and last captures. When I investigated this further, I found that the average bit rate of the Arte set was higher at 5.29mb/s than MOC's which is 4.8mb/s. Has compression technology improved enough in the last five years that this is not the issue? I wouldn't be able to say either way using this comparison.

Eureka has created all new English intertitles for this release replacing the Arte set's French intertitles in around 75% of the shorts.

Special Features: The Arte set comes with an 11 minute look at Keaton's work by French film-maker Pierre Etiax on disc two. On disc four is a 14 minute trailer for Arte DVD releases made up of film clips accompanied by music.

 

The MOC set is attractively packed in a box that includes a wonderful 183 page book full of photographs, many seldom seen, and an interesting array of articles about Keaton and his early work. The bulk of the booklet is a round table discussion by film critics Jean-Pierre Coursodon, Dan Sallitt, and Brad Stevens conducted via email during the spring of 2006. I have not run across this form of published discourse before and found it very interesting. Film professor, critic and screenwriter Joseph McBride provides commentary on six of the films (see menu captures). Also included on disc four is an informal audio recording of a party at TV writer Bill Cox's home in May of 1962. Buster holds court for 23 minutes singing songs and telling old stories.

Conclusion: Both of these releases are important collections of Buster Keaton's work, easily ranking with the better looking feature films that have been recently restored and released by mk2. Together, they are a guarantee that Buster Keaton's work will survive nearly intact into the 21st century.

On the other hand, though I consider the Masters of Cinema version of Keaton's shorts to be the best overall release of this material thus far, it is due to the footage added since the earlier Arte release and the special features rather than the quality of the progressive transfer. I believe that they could have done a much better job on the technical side of this project than they did.

 - Gregg Ferencz

 



DVD Menus
(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom (4 Disc Box Set) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Arte Vidéo - France (4 Disc Set) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) for progressive transfer - by a nose

Sound:

tie

Extras: Eureka (Masters of Cinema)
Menu: Eureka (Masters of Cinema)

 
DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - United Kingdom

Region 0 - PAL

Arte Vidéo - France
Region 2 - PAL




 

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