Directed by: Buster Keaton, Charles Reisner
Genre: Comedy, Action
Black and White, 70 Minutes
Among the great works of Buster Keaton Steamboat Bill Jr sits among his best, and is definitely up to par with his famous The General. Once more, we see Keaton effectively structuring a film with not only comedy- but also a solid plot. The characters may not be deep as would Chaplin’s, but Keaton has displayed his acting talent in a character that wins the audiences heart; not to mention some of his great comedic work used. Overall, it is a fantastic silent comedy and one of the greatest.
The film opens with a large steamboat and its owner, announcing to people what a fine boat it is. Soon, the son of this steamboat captain, William (Keaton) comes to town to see his dad after years of separation. Bill tries to turn his son into a man. When his father is arrested, Willie decides to get him out of jail.
The simple plot could probably fit into a 20-minute comedy, but the gags Keaton has displayed make it all worthwhile and structured. Keaton here has made a very relatable character with a plot that is still endearing- a father and son relationship. In one scene, William and his father are entering a clothes shop. William stumbles up the few steps, which is funny. Then, William walks in and his father remains outside. His father has the Ukelele of William’s in his pocket, and it slips out. A man across the way laughs at him. Then he stomps on it angrily. It may not be an extremely poignant moment, but you do feel sorry for William- a boy who returned to see his father after many years to discover he is ashamed of him. This emotion still works today and it gave this film more versatility and dimension.
Keaton has once again shown his amazing athletic ability and flexibility with his zany slapstick genius. The gags in the film are all excellent and well-executed. One of my favourite gags is where a buildings front collapses to the ground, with William just standing there. It falls on top of him, however, he is standing were a rooftop has fallen. The gag here is a toned up version of a gag seen in an early Keaton and Arbuckle film, and he done it wonderfully.
|A hilarious gag.|
In the film's final sequence, a hurricane hits and the disaster is very impressive. We see buildings being destroyed, trees coming out of the ground and objects flying around. For the time, it amazes me that they done this as we our seeing real buildings being destroyed- all the sake for film.
The gags he displays when breaking his father out of jail were equally hilarious, and for a film dating over 80 years, I see it as quite impressive. Comedy has undoubtedly evolved with the creation of sound and whatnot, but slapstick remains timeless and funny. Steamboat Bill Jr is no masterpiece, but Keaton’s excellent gags stuck on a relatable character make it a wonderful experience.
Verdict: With a great structured character and excellent slapstick, Keaton shows once more that he was one of the comedy kings of his time. A well worth watching silent comedy whether you are a fan or discovering his work.
IMDB Rating: 7.9/10