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BOAT, THE (director/writer: Buster Keaton/Edward F. Cline; cinematographer: Elgin Lessley; music: Robert Israel; cast: Buster Keaton (Boat Builder), Edward F. Cline (SOS Receiver), Sybil Seely (Boat Builder’s Wife); Runtime: 26; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph M. Schenck; Kino Video; 1921-silent)

“Hilarious two-reeler.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 26-year-old Buster Keaton (“The Navigator”/”The General”/”The Love Nest”)in this hilarious two-reeler, one of the star’s favorite silent shorts, plays a boat builder, who takes his wife (Sybil Seely) and their two boys on the boat named Damfino in its problematic maiden launch. First problem is that the boat is too big to fit through the basement door and when forced through it the house collapses. Getting the boatm transported by car, off the pier is no easy task, as the car sinks in the water and soon the boat also sinks. Buster quickly patches up the boat, but while hanging a picture punctures the hull causing a leak. After sailing by a few low bridges, they soon run into a violent storm. Buster’s SOS is ignored when he mentions the boat’s name and the operator (Edward F. Cline) angrily answers back “Neither do I!”. The storm causes the boat to spin around until it finally sinks, and the family escape in a makeshift lifeboat. They miraculously reach land, which turns out to be the only good thing about the voyage.

The memorable shot, part of film history, is of Busterstanding invincibly at the prow of his boat as the water keeps rising.

The film was almost lost because of deterioration, but was successfully restored.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”