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Q: What's more exciting than a runaway boulder? A: 100 runaway boulders.
January 27, 2014 12:08 AM   Subscribe

Three minutes and fifty-six seconds of Buster Keaton running for his life.
From the 1925 film Seven Chances.
posted by Atom Eyes (53 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel like if Buster Keaton were born 80 years later, he would have been really into parkour and could have made some amazing movies with Jackie Chan.
posted by Avelwood at 12:21 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Needs more Indiana Jones.
posted by Mezentian at 12:21 AM on January 27


Buster is so great. Several of Buster's films are on Netflix, including The General, which I can never stop enjoying.

AVClub: How to start watching Buster Keaton (It's not hard).
posted by dhartung at 12:23 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Needs more Indiana Jones.

That's like saying The Hero With a Thousand Faces needs more Star Wars.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:53 AM on January 27 [20 favorites]


Steve: You and Cynthia have got to talk this out.
Richard: We're through talking, Steve. Now I'm doing this my way.
Steve: Your way's not going to work.
Richard: How the hell do you know so much about this, Keaton?
Steven: I know you're making a big mistake, buster!
Richard: Don't call me buster, Keaton!
Steve: I didn't call you Buster Keaton!
Richard: I didn't say you called me Buster Keaton!
Steve: Can we stop with this Buster Keaton business?


- Family Ties, "To Snatch a Keith"
posted by readyfreddy at 1:06 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


fantastic stuff. though he needs to learn to run sideways across the hill instead of down... just sayin :)
posted by greenhornet at 1:07 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


This is amazing, making all those paper mache boulders, launching them at just the right time.
...and if you screwed up the take, carrying the darn things back up to the top to start over again.
I assume that is the way they did it.
posted by quazichimp at 1:13 AM on January 27


Some rocks are involved.

Heh.



Damn, though, Buster Keaton was a tremendous athlete. I think that every time I see one of his films.


Several of Buster's films are on Netflix, including The General, which I can never stop enjoying.

YES. If you have never seen The General, you must do so this instant. Now. Go go go.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:19 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Just concentrate on the physical comedy and less on the Keaton as Confederate War Hero (however inadvertently)
posted by Earthtopus at 1:22 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


fantastic stuff. though he needs to learn to run sideways across the hill instead of down... just sayin

A lesson Hollywood has yet to learn, right, Ridley Scott?
posted by Mezentian at 1:22 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Avelwood: "I feel like if Buster Keaton were born 80 years later, he would have been really into parkour and could have made some amazing movies with Jackie Chan"

I just came in here to say something like that. Or possibly skateboarding. He sadly probably wouldn't have done it while dressed in a sharp suit, though.

But Keaton was some sort of physicality incarnate, just constant movement, elegant even when he was falling on his ass. And that whole boulder sequence is immaculately staged, in many ways more believable than a lot of much newer stuff.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:32 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


His autobiography is a good read and I recently watched the most slapsticky Twilight Zone episode ever.
posted by facesonflags at 1:47 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Keaton is someone I wish I could go back in time to warn about the future.
posted by pracowity at 1:54 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


This is a brilliant post for Monday morning. Just keep running and eventually you'll make it home, damn the boulders.
posted by chavenet at 2:08 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Keaton, good lord, what can you say? One of the greats. THE greats. In my book he's right up there with brilliant American artists like Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, Mark Twain... a National Treasure.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:15 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


In the style of the stabilized zapruder and bigfoot gifs and some images like Eadweard Muybridge i quickly made some pictures from this film; imgur link
posted by stuartmm at 4:00 AM on January 27 [10 favorites]


And then there was the time Keaton appeared in Samuel Beckett's film, Film.
posted by Bromius at 4:26 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


My favourite Buster Keaton moment...
posted by orange swan at 4:59 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Saw The General in a theater a few months ago with the Alloy Orchestra playing live. The theater was packed full of everyone from little kids to college students to seniors and everyone seemed to have a great time.
posted by octothorpe at 5:16 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Steamboat Bill, Jr is, to this day, the only film that, literally, had me on the floor of the theatre, laughing. It was my first time seeing any Buster Keaton films, and it was amazing.
posted by annekenstein at 5:45 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


If you have a change to see one of his movies in the theater, definately go. Both the big screen and the audience really add to the effect. It's great that Netflix and Archive have his films but it's just so fun sitting in an audience and laughing to a ninety year old movie.
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


He showed up in a lot of AIP beach movies, for some reason. It's generally seen as being an example of the sort of decline a lot of actors experiences with age, being forced to take idiotic roles in terrible films, but I actually liked the AIP beach movies. They had a pretty incredible nose for talent (Don Rickles, Paul Lynde, Vincent Price, Else Lanchester, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Mickey Rooney, Timothy Carey) and Keaton was always a sort of comforting presence in them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:53 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Game designers: Keatonbalt
posted by Going To Maine at 6:05 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


My kids and I watched The General recently and we were all amazed at how terrific a silent movie could be. They liked it so much they made a visiting friend sit down and watch it. They were fascinated with the practical effects after being raised on CGI.
posted by not that girl at 6:55 AM on January 27


With all the running Buster Keaton does, I'm surprised that Tom Cruise hasn't done a biopic of him yet.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:21 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


we were all amazed at how terrific a silent movie could be

See also It with Clara Bow.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 AM on January 27


Nthing The General. Just go see it. Now. And Chaplin, too. And Harold Lloyd. Just go see all that silent comedy, right now. They make me believe in God.
posted by Melismata at 7:21 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


After all these years, Buster is still my favorite movie star. Nobody makes movies like Buster.
My favorite is Steamboat Willie. It came out at the same time Disney's Steamboat Willie did, 1924, only Buster's version has him riding a tornado through town. (Personally, I think it was some inspiration for the Wizard of Oz.)
I have yet to see a bad Keaton film. Check them out. I really liked his earlier stuff with Fatty Arbuckle.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:22 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


With all the running Buster Keaton does, I'm surprised that Tom Cruise hasn't done a biopic of him yet.

I had thought Cruise as Jack Reacher was the most atrocious miscasting possible, but Cruise as Keaton would (amazingly) be worse yet.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


With all the running Buster Keaton does, I'm surprised that Tom Cruise hasn't done a biopic of him yet.
HUSH YOUR MOUTH
posted by pxe2000 at 7:34 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


I think it's amazing to think that at the time this film was created, "motion pictures" were still in their infancy. The entire industry was still trying to figure out not only the basic mechanics (like, how do you keep a camera in focus while it and the subject are moving?) but also the conventions (like, how do you communicate the idea of a damsel waiting for her beau to return?) I can't imagine how exciting and how daunting it must have been to work in that industry at the time.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:41 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you should obviously just watch all of the Keaton silents -- both the features and the shorts -- but if you're picking cherries, I'd make a passionate argument for Sherlock Jr., which has a great practical-FX scene where Keaton imagines himself on-screen in a movie theater as the film cuts among different locations, some nice pool trick shots, a jaw-dropping motorcycle stunt, and what must be the most amazing costume change in film history. It's Keaton at his absolute best as engineer, dreamer, and showman, and I don't think anyone has ever made a better movie.
posted by Mothlight at 7:44 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


True fact: Charlize Theron studied his technique for running away from large objects falling in a narrow path for a recent film role.
posted by sonascope at 8:06 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I think it's amazing to think that at the time this film was created, "motion pictures" were still in their infancy

It's also amazing that by the mid-twenties, they'd worked out most of the mechanics of film-making that are still used today. And they did it so quickly. If you watch a film from 1910, it looks prehistoric and crude but watch something from 1925 and it basically looks like a movie. Obviously there have been lots of innovations since then but they got the basics of how to make a movie down pretty darn fast.
posted by octothorpe at 8:12 AM on January 27


Just want to throw my two cents in for Neighbors and One Week. Neighbors was the first Keaton movie I ever saw, as a little kid watching cable one day. I had no idea what it was other than the funniest thing I'd ever seen. Forgot about it completely for years after until I learned that it really happened, that I really did see what I saw, and that there was so much more to see.
posted by kokaku at 9:21 AM on January 27


I just try to imagine what it must have been like, back in the day, to hear that a new BK movie was in the theater. the anticipation must have been overwhelming. we have a new blockbuster every few weeks these days, and few enough of them have any moments as thrilling as a keaton chase scene.
The excitement in the movie house must have been palpable as the lights went down and the film started to flicker. It was almost a plus that the film was silent, because i can only imagine how loud it would get once the action really started to roll.
My guess is you just filled the time between new movies by seeing the old ones as often as you could afford.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:39 AM on January 27


"Come back here and pay your tab!"
posted by JHarris at 10:42 AM on January 27


Nthing The General. Just go see it. Now. And Chaplin, too. And Harold Lloyd. Just go see all that silent comedy, right now. They make me believe in God.

Lloyd, yes, Chaplin - not so much. Too sentimental. Too preachy.

But while we're at it, a nod to Keaton's sometimes partner - Fatty Arbuckle, the John Candy/Chris Farley of the silents.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:31 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


the John Candy/Chris Farley of the silents.

Two of the three names in the Arbuckle curse.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:39 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


This sequence is the very end of Seven Chances, a full-length feature. I have seen it on the big screen twice, both times in a packed theater with a full-scale house organ accompanying it. The experience of this scene in front of a large audience is literally breathtaking. It's constructed in such a manner that after each setup completes you expect the film to continue with a non-chase beat. Of course, that never happens, and after a while it begins to directly affect your ability to breathe, partly due to laughter, and partly due to gasps of incredulity. Dizziness sets in, and you doubt your perception.

At both screenings, when the end title appeared, the audience leapt to its feet in wild, cascading cheers. The applause was nominally for the organist, of course, but in reality we were applauding the astounding cinematic genius of Keaton. I have never, ever attended another film in which the audience's visceral reaction was so profound and physical.
posted by mwhybark at 11:54 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Here's the whole film:

http://youtu.be/zTwfCyWKYYc


The complete chase, which begins in town with all the brides, begins at around 37 minutes in. The boulder sequence begins at about 49 minutes in.
posted by mwhybark at 12:06 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones: the John Candy/Chris Farley of the silents.

Bunny Ultramod: Two of the three names in the Arbuckle curse.


Interesting. I think you could also make a case for an Ignatius J. Reilly Curse, as Belushi, Candy, and Farley were each considered for that role at one time or another. (Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it the Curse of the Fat Guy with an Excessive Appetite for Food, Drugs, and Alcohol.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:19 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


And he does all that escaping death on the mountain in a SUIT AND HARD DRESS SHOES!!
posted by tristeza at 12:41 PM on January 27


People were hardcore back then. Impending death is no excuse for not cutting a dashing figure.
posted by JHarris at 1:10 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Footnote - his last movie was the talkie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

He nailed it. (Oh, and he did a lot of his own stunts - at age 71)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:18 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


This was wonderful. I love Buster Keaton.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 3:57 PM on January 27


The General has the single most expensive shot of the entire silent era in it -- the destruction of the railroad bridge. Someone on the set at the time said that when the engine fell into the water, its whistle shrieked and just kept on shrieking. It drove the crew crazy. You can see it -- you can see the blast of steam -- but you can't hear it...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:03 PM on January 27


Oh, and this is my favorite Buster Keaton moment.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:06 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


That is a good one, yes.
posted by JHarris at 5:15 PM on January 27


Nithing the love for the General. I saw it a few years ago with a live score and it was fantastic.
posted by immlass at 6:08 PM on January 27


From "The Day Buster Smiled: The 1926 filming of 'The General' by Buster Keaton, as chronicled in 'The Cottage Grove Sentinel' newspaper, Cottage Grove, Oregon" (Cottage Grove Historical Society, 1998):

The train engine that fell into the river stayed there until during the war effort in World War II it was cut up into scrap.

The old trestle has been gone for many years now and the end of the trestle is now private property with no access to the old film site.

No trains run on the railroad tracks any more and the tracks have been removed and has been made part of our local "Rails to Trails" project.

The hotel where Buster and his crew stayed is still standing and is used as apartments and shops in Cottage Grove's downtown historic district on Main Street.

The town of of Cottage Grove remains small and friendly, with a population of under 8,000 residents.
posted by On the Corner at 1:54 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


And he does all that escaping death on the mountain in a SUIT AND HARD DRESS SHOES!!

And don't forget that all those brides who are chasing him are wearing wedding dresses and wedding shoes!
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:33 AM on January 28


Lloyd, yes, Chaplin - not so much. Too sentimental. Too preachy.

My kids and I had Gold Rush home from the library and watched it the other day. When we popped the disk in, it turned out that it was a revival from the 40s for which Chaplin had written narration, which he himself delivered in a newsreel-anchor kind of voice. The narration was non stop and both extremely overblown and unnecessary. "Thousands of hopeful prospectors converge on the Yukon in the hope of striking it rich...the journey is a perilous one, and not all survive it. This line of prospectors struggle up a steep, snowy path [visual of many prospectors struggling in a line up a steep snowy path]...one falls! [visual of one of them falling over]."

And a few minutes later, when we've moved on to Chaplin's long prospector, there was narration like, "He makes his way down an icy slope...he slips...he stumbles...he falls...he slides to the bottom!"

I couldn't believe Chaplin wrote the narration. Surely he of all people should have understood how unnecessary words were to telling the story.

Fortunately, the original silent version was one of the "special features" so we watched that instead. But now my kids and I are inclined to narrate ourselves and each other: "She makes her way across the room...she sits! She's safe!" and so on.

Keaton is better in our view.
posted by not that girl at 8:35 AM on February 1


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