Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Go West (1925)

Go West (Buster Keaton, 1925) There have been a couple features with the title, but this is the one written, directed and starring Keaton as a woe-begone dweller of a podunk town who sells everything he owns at the Fade From Black, only to find (after buying food and buying back the family photo he'd forgotten in a drawer) that he's a completely free man (freedom being just another word for nothing left to lose).  Deterred and detoured, he hoboes a freight train and accidentally (not exactly the right word as Keaton's "accidents" are always complicated) finds himself on a working ranch out west.  A discraded set of chaps is all the references he needs to start working on the ranch and working the herd, starting from the ground up.  Removing a stone from a heifer's hoof gains him a friend and a constant companion in the work-a-day world, as the un-broco'd Buster and bovine look out for the other.  

It's a classic fish-on-the-prairie story as Keaton's tenderfoot and his tender-footed cow-friend find ways to get things done while not doing things in the normal cowboy fashion, and any mentioning of the lessons learned in milking, lassoing and branding a cow will only spoil the surprise.  Let's just say that PETA would be proud.

The way most silent comedies work is with a long series of short bits and then an extended sequence in the final couple reels, and that was Keaton's standard blue-print, as well.  The final complication involves getting the herd to market so that the ranch can pay its bills, while at the same time, saving the one cow that Keaton has become the guardian cowboy to.  It involves a train-trip (a Keaton specialty) as well as one logistical movie-making nightmare—a cow stampede through the streets of roaring '20's Los Angeles, but done at a pace with a tangential series of complications that amaze.

As always seems to be the case with silent comedies, especially those of Keaton, the fewer words the better.  Just seek it out and enjoy.

The first "Mexican stand-off" in movies is instantly defused with a pinkie finger.

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