Battling Butler Reviews
Keaton's exploration on the sport genre has a formula so effective and moving, that it still is applied to win over millions of heart even after a century; almost! This journey from a no one to someone speaks the most with a common man that has ever aspired to make it big. The only weak aspect of the film is the storytelling in its second act, that gets way too hefty for it to surf above the level fluently. It goes deep with multiple characters coming in and out, where before you know you are in the final round where Keaton knocks you out with a sweet satisfying punch.
The gags come in handy in a Buster Keaton film, but what's surprising is that the obvious physical comic sequences like him training or boxing isn't his major asset. The smooth smart gigs that are kept to help put the audience at ease while the story advances, is real gold. Like the table that sinks under the ground or a couple fighting over a window pane or bickering sweetly with no bars held.
And as far as gags that are weaved to draw in chuckles are concerned, behold Keaton when he is trying to hunt in a boat or getting tangled in a rope or worrying to death when he is told to fix a bulb. His awareness of the characters and the plot can be derived from the scale of brattiness he exposes when he is out with the nature and his butler still provides him the luxuries like a king living in a palace- even a cigarettes is smoked with the help of the butler while his mother talks sweet with him. Battling Butler is a one big fight that starts off energetically and gets tired in its middle act only to end up on a high pitched dramatic note.
The premise of this 71-minute silent is not so plausible, but it does supply plenty of laughs. Mansion-bound Alfred decides a hunting getaway is just what he needs, so he and his valet (amusing Snitz Edwards, who's even more petite than Keaton) take off for the woods. Keaton has lots of fun with sight gags as his character continues to indulge his need for luxury, even while camping.
Everything changes when Alfred meets a pretty, unnamed "mountain girl" (Sally O'Neill). He almost shoots her (oops), but they soon feel romantic sparks. However, her brawny father and brother sneer at wimpy Alfred and scorn the courtship. Noting that a current boxing champ also happens to be named Alfred Butler, the valet gets a spontaneous idea and bluffs that his boss is actually the boxer on retreat (yes, this story is pre-television and Internet). The girl's family is impressed, but now Keaton is stuck in a lie. This sets in motion an extended charade of him pretending to be a boxer in training (lots of physical humor with sparring partners and boxing-ring ropes), while the real champion (Francis McDonald) learns of the ruse and aims to teach him a harsh lesson. But we know our plucky hero will prove his mettle in the end, don't we?
The wiry star shows some legitimate punching power, but a comic scene where the boxer's "punished" wife sports a black eye reminds us of the film's age.