3 Stars

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Buster Keaton is at the peak of his slapstick powers in The Cameraman—the first film that the silent-screen legend made after signing with MGM, and his last great masterpiece. The final work over which he maintained creative control, this clever farce is the culmination of an extraordinary, decade-long run that produced some of the most innovative and enduring comedies of all time. Keaton plays a hapless newsreel cameraman desperate to impress both his new employer and his winsome office crush as he zigzags up and down Manhattan hustling for a scoop. Along the way, he goes for a swim (and winds up soaked), becomes embroiled in a Chinatown Tong War, and teams up with a memorable monkey sidekick (the famous Josephine). The marvelously inventive film-within-a-film setup allows Keaton’s imagination to run wild, yielding both sly insights into the travails of moviemaking and an emotional payoff of disarming poignancy.

FILM INFO

  • Edward Sedgwick
  • United States
  • 1928
  • 69 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • Silent, English
  • Spine #1033

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New 4K digital restoration undertaken by the Cineteca di Bologna, the Criterion Collection, and Warner Bros.
  • New score by composer Timothy Brock, conducted by Brock and performed by the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna in 2020, presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2004 featuring Glenn Mitchell, author of A–Z of Silent Film Comedy: An Illustrated Companion
  • Spite Marriage (1929), Buster Keaton’s next feature for MGM following The Cameraman, in a new 2K restoration, with a 2004 commentary by film historians John Bengtson and Jeffrey Vance
  • Time Travelers, a new documentary by Daniel Raim featuring interviews with Bengtson and film historian Marc Wanamaker
  • So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM, a 2004 documentary by film historians Kevin Brownlow and Christopher Bird
  • New interview with James L. Neibaur, author of The Fall of Buster Keaton: His Films for MGM, Educational Pictures, and Columbia
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Imogen Sara Smith

New cover by Victor Melamed

June 16, 2020

Published by

Ronald Epstein

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Ronald Epstein

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Thank you for supporting HTF when you preorder using the link below. If you are using an adblocker you will not see link. As an Amazon Associate HTF earns from qualifying purchases

 
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Angelo Colombus

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Nice to see the excellent documentary So Funny It Hurt: Buster Keaton & MGM which goes into details about what MGM did to his career.
 

Rodney

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With a new 2K restoration of Spite Marriage as an extra, this sounds more like a double feature to me.

Cannot wait to get this one.
 
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Arthur Powell

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I also echo the sentiment about the wonderful piano score that accompanied The Cameraman on VHS/LD and initial TCM airings. It is truly one of the best piano scores ever recorded for a silent. Alas, I can understand that there are a plethora of reasons that may have precluded its inclusion - poor technical quality of the recording or surviving masters, clearance issues since we have no idea of when it was recorded and who the pianist is, and running time differences. It is interesting that the Arthur Barrow score that TCM/WB commissioned for the 2004 DVD isn't included here, but I don't consider that a big loss as the score was mediocre at best. I've heard good things about Timothy Brock's score so I'm looking forward to it.

I was also holding out hope that Kevin Brownlow's masterful 1980s documentary on Keaton, A Hard Act to Follow, could have been included as the main supplement. Since Brownlow's documentary on Harold Lloyd was a supplement on Safety Last, I was hoping that Criterion had some level of access, but I guess not. The legal clearances would have been more difficult for the Keaton doc than the Lloyd one in any case I imagine. I still consider the Brownlow documentary to be the definitive one on Keaton. The recent one that Peter Bogdanovich made wasn't bad but it does have some significant flaws in my opinion.

So - to recap - Keaton's final two silent features, one a masterpiece and the other very good, will soon be available to us in HD restorations for under thirty dollars. That's some good news at a time when we need some.
 

titch

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I also echo the sentiment about the wonderful piano score that accompanied The Cameraman on VHS/LD and initial TCM airings. It is truly one of the best piano scores ever recorded for a silent. Alas, I can understand that there are a plethora of reasons that may have precluded its inclusion - poor technical quality of the recording or surviving masters, clearance issues since we have no idea of when it was recorded and who the pianist is, and running time differences. It is interesting that the Arthur Barrow score that TCM/WB commissioned for the 2004 DVD isn't included here, but I don't consider that a big loss as the score was mediocre at best. I've heard good things about Timothy Brock's score so I'm looking forward to it.

I was also holding out hope that Kevin Brownlow's masterful 1980s documentary on Keaton, A Hard Act to Follow, could have been included as the main supplement. Since Brownlow's documentary on Harold Lloyd was a supplement on Safety Last, I was hoping that Criterion had some level of access, but I guess not. The legal clearances would have been more difficult for the Keaton doc than the Lloyd one in any case I imagine. I still consider the Brownlow documentary to be the definitive one on Keaton. The recent one that Peter Bogdanovich made wasn't bad but it does have some significant flaws in my opinion.

So - to recap - Keaton's final two silent features, one a masterpiece and the other very good, will soon be available to us in HD restorations for under thirty dollars. That's some good news at a time when we need some.
I purchased the UK DVD of A Hard Act To Follow last year, released by Network. It is vastly superior to the Peter Bogdanovich documentary, but I can see why Criterion would have difficulty releasing that as a supplement. It's not only two and a half hours long, but it would need remastering on the level that Network has done with the Monty Python Flying Circus or 7-63 Up series. The best part of the Peter Bogdanovich documentary were the magnificently restored clips from Cohen's Keaton feature films.
 

Rodney

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I purchased the UK DVD of A Hard Act To Follow last year, released by Network. It is vastly superior to the Peter Bogdanovich documentary, but I can see why Criterion would have difficulty releasing that as a supplement. It's not only two and a half hours long, but it would need remastering on the level that Network has done with the Monty Python Flying Circus or 7-63 Up series. The best part of the Peter Bogdanovich documentary were the magnificently restored clips from Cohen's Keaton feature films.
My biggest issue with that UK DVD is that it has been stated that they used a workprint and not the final version of the 3-part documentary. I've wanted this to be released for a long time (I have an old thread around here somewhere).
 

Angelo Colombus

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Website Blu-ray.com has a positive review of the Blu-ray. It's a good month to have new releases by Keaton and Laurel & Hardy.

 

Angelo Colombus

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Have the Blu-ray and did a quick comparison to the TCM Archives dvd set and the Criterion release is a big upgrade with most of the film damage gone and more detail. For a 93 year old film with the original negative gone it looks good and Keaton fans will be happy.
 
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OLDTIMER

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I finally got my copy of the Criterion Blu-ray. About 8o% of THE CAMERAMAN was able to be restored to pristine condition. That 80% looks just as good as if it had come from the original negative. It's superb! The remaining 20% is, unfortunately, not a lot better than the TCM release. Nevertheless. well worth upgrading from the TCM DVD set.
I was disappointed that SPITE MARRIAGE was not upgraded. It's barely only marginally better than the TCM DVD.
 
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Matt Hough

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This was one of my Criterion purchases, too. I hope to get to it in the next week. So many discs, so little time. If ONLY I didn't have so many hobbies!