…and like some post-modern Alice, I have taken a long, slow slide down said hole this week in search of facts about the career of one Buster Keaton.
Apparently, the rights to the Keaton film library have transferred from Kino/Lorber to the Cohen Media Group. The first result of this transference was the wonderful Peter Bogdanovich documentary, The Great Buster, which I wrote about a few short weeks ago. The quality of the film clips in the new documentary is stunning. Cohen is doing new 4K scans of all the films. Trust me; this is material with which I am very familiar. Many other films came and went on my syllabus when I taught high school film studies for almost thirty years, but Keaton’s greatest feature, The General, and one of his best shorts, Cops, were always part of my curriculum.
I am guessing that the magic of streaming services is why I hear much less fussing and bitching on social media about home video releases “double dipping”—i.e., films or collections that keep getting reissued in better and better presentations. People are buying fewer discs because so much content is available to stream, which lessens the temptation to buy your fourteenth iteration of Halloween on shiny little disc.
Also, I just used the term “content” instead of “movies.” Please strangle me in my sleep with a twisted length of 70mm film.
When I graduated from college, the VHS boom was in full swing, and my local K-Mart offered a series of budget tapes of public-domain films called Film Classics. I bought another copy of Keaton’s The General on tape for the princely sum of $9.99. That was Dip #2.
A few years later, I became aware of a mail-order video store called Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee. They offered tapes of other silent films of questionable legality (like Keaton’s Sherlock, Junior) at reasonable prices. That was Dip #3. (A few weeks ago, I was visiting my son in LA and drove past the actual Eddie Brandt building. I think they are still in business!) Around about this time, a colleague at my high school (Hi, Chuck!) thought I had too much money just lying around and so introduced me to the wonders of laserdiscs. That was Dip #4. The Image Entertainment laserdiscs were quickly replaced by the Kino/Lorber Art of Buster Keaton laserdisc box sets. That was Dip #5.
Years passed, and Blu-ray discs were introduced, necessitating the purchase of Kino/Lorber’s 14-disc Buster Keaton Collection. That was Dip #8. A few years later, Kino/Lorber released improved transfers of some of the films in neat, double feature Blu-ray discs. That was Dip #9. Finally, last week, Cohen Media Group released its new 4K scans of Keaton’s The General and Steamboat Bill, Junior. That, friends and neighbors, was D-I-Fucking-P #10.
I have now purchased these same films in so many goddamned iterations, you can refer to ME as Dip #11. Because… I am a dip. Like I said, this is material with which I am VERY familiar.
While canoodling about on the Internet doing research for this column, I also discovered that the Bogdanovich documentary, The Great Buster, is now available on Blu-ray disc. (It was previously available only as a paid rental or digital download from the Amazon Prime video streaming service.) I also discovered that the magnificent Kevin Brownlow and David Gill silent film documentary, Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film, is also now available (all thirteen 50-minute episodes) for sale or rent from Amazon. Just last year on this very website, I was all sturm and drang that after its original VHS and laserdisc releases, this amazing series went OOP for decades. You can read that rant here.
Another superb Kevin Brownlow documentary—Unknown Chaplin, which originally premiered on Thames Television and PBS—is also now available on Amazon. The price to rent EACH episode of EACH documentary is the princely sum of… ONE DOLLAR.
here. For me, this is the theatrical revival event of the year.
Don’t live in or near Chicago? Simply walk a few blocks and stay at that new fancy hotel, The Zachary, which the Ricketts family just built across the street from Wrigley Field. It’s only $500 a night. You can stay there for the entire Keaton Festival for only $3500, which is probably less than what I have paid over the years for Keaton’s films on celluloid, tape, laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray disc.
I’m calling it a bargain.