Sunday, July 5, 2009

Best Fun-Stupid Movies Of 1928-29: The Cameraman And The Iron Mask

Actually the best Fun-Stupid movie of 1928-29 is Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr. But since this classic comedy has already won a couple of Katies (for actor and supporting actor) and I've written two compelling essays about it, you've by now no doubt already tracked down a copy and watched it—a couple of times if you're anything like me.

Okay, so nobody's anything like me.

Anyway, there's another Keaton comedy from 1928 you don't want to miss. The Camera- man is the story of a tintype operator who aspires to become a newsreel photographer for the same reason a Buster Keaton character usually aspires to do anything, to impress a woman, in this case, Marceline Day. There are great scenes involving a gang war in Chinatown, an oversize pair of swim trunks at a public pool and an organ grinder's monkey that not only saves the day but proves to be a better filmmaker than Keaton.

The Cameraman doesn't include the death-defying physical stunts that marked most of Keaton's comedies, and for that reason alone I'd say if you've never seen a Buster Keaton movie, don't start with this one, but it is chock full of great gags and also works quite well as a commentary on the experimental cinema of the era. Not to mention Keaton plays perhaps the most appealing character of his career.

On the other hand, if Buster Keaton isn't your porkpie hat full of tea, I suggest you check out the Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler The Iron Mask. Based on a pair of novels by Alexandre Dumas père, Twenty Years After and The Man in the Iron Mask, it's a sequel to Fairbanks's 1921 hit The Three Musketeers and features the return of D'Artagnan and his three compadres, Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

Fairbanks nabbed a well-deserved Katie nomination for his performance as the larger-than-life D'Artagnan, and as you would expect when the name Douglas Fairbanks appears above the title, the movie features plenty of action and swordplay. But it's also a great buddy movie and surprisingly touching. This was Fairbanks's last silent movie: I think he knew that his days as an action star were numbered and he wanted to go out on a high note. That he does.

Both movies (plus Steamboat Bill, Jr.) are available on DVD.

7 comments:

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

But since this classic comedy has already won a couple of Katies (for actor and supporting actor) and I've written two compelling essays about it, you've by now no doubt already tracked down a copy and watched it—a couple of times if you're anything like me.

:-) That is just great writing, no lie.

And I am in fact making my leisurely and smile-filled way through the vast archives here at Mythical Monkey and toting up a great list of movie watching titles for Ms. Who & I. Thanks a million, Myth & Katie.

P.S. Please don't forget to publish all this in book form.

Mister Parker said...

Who Am Us, I'm glad you're dipping into Buster Keaton -- I think if I had to choose one performer/director who has been the most consistently fun while I've been working on this blog is Buster Keaton.

As for a book, hmm. I'll have to ask my agent about that. She mostly handles fiction but maybe she's looking to branch out ...

Douglas Fairbanks said...

I think any article that describes Buster Keaton as "Best Actor" of that year has been dabbling in the fiction!

Rupert Alistair said...

The Iron Mask sounds great, as Fairbanks always is. I haven't seen it but it's definitely on the "to-see" list. Thanks.

Rupert

Douglas Fairbanks said...

mister alistair -- you're a bloody genius!

may i also recommend my ground-breaking work in the taming of the shrew? My Petruchio gave me the chance to, how do the kids say it, break bad on l'il Mary Pickford.

"America's Sweetheart" indeed -- that broad was Canadian!.


Um, I seem to have digressed.

Thank you for your compliment. . . .

Mythical Monkey said...

Welcome, Mr. Alstair -- you picked a good week, I think, to stop by, I think. Should have six postings in the next eight days, chock full of recommendations.

Sir George Martin said...

I'll show you my Steamboat Willie !