Keaton Unleashed

The start of this short is nothing short of amazing for the time. Buster Keaton portrays every person in a theatrical production, from the audience, to the orchestra, to the people on stage, usually with more than one of him in frame at a time. When a member of the audience opens the night's program, he is impressed to find every credit listed as Buster Keaton, and so are we. I couldn't say what technique is used to composite the shots together, but it's flawless, and as late as the seventies the idea of putting someone on screen with themselves was enough of a novelty to impress audiences. I'm sure, as a silent film, that helped some, and I was watching a restored version, so perhaps they were able to clean up some artifacts... but it's an achievement regardless.

Ah, but that's not the whole short. We soon realize this was the fantasy of one particular stagehand, and we see the usual sort of slapstick antics that Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd were known for. Not that there's anything wrong with that - all kinds of imagination was plowed into this, but it's disappointing that the opening didn't lead to anything larger. This one's still a worthwhile watch, but the setup could have led to something greater.

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