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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Railrodder (1965)



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Decades after Buster Keaton's treasured silent comedy shorts, he made another with Gerald Potterton. This silent 24 minute Canadian feature, alas, serves as little more than a reminder of the comic genius Keaton exhibited in his heyday. It's not funny. Cute, maybe. It's one of those things you might say "huh" at, the kind of thing you're genuinely interested in for that one moment but quickly forget and have no desire to recall and enjoy again.

Part of the problem may have been the director. Keaton always directed himself in his silent classics. When he signed a contract with MGM at the beginning of the sound era and MGM wouldn't give him the artistic freedom he'd had before, his comic energy was stifled. The other part of the problem is that there isn't much to say. Keaton's character emerges from the ocean, travels across Canada by rail, and that's the end of it. Along the way some things happen, but it's shocking and disheartening that they rarely induce laughter.

Far more entertaining than The Railrodder is the documentary made about its making, Buster Keaton Rides Again. This documentary has some real insight to share, and the occasional light moments it captures on camera are funnier than anything The Railrodder has to offer.