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A viewer who has never seen a Buster Keaton comedy might get the wrong
idea of what to expect from this film's introductory title card, which
reads: "The Flower of Love Could Find No More Romantic Spot in Which to
Blossom Than in This Poet's Dream Garden." We are then shown a grungy
courtyard between two tenement buildings divided by a fence, and on
opposite sides of the fence we find The Boy (Buster) and The Girl
(Virginia Fox), sweetly in love but kept apart by feuding parents. But
fear not, for the flowery wording of that introduction is meant in
jest: Neighbors is no exercise in Griffith-style sentimentality about
poor people. (For one thing, if D.W. Griffith had directed this he'd
have called it "Romeo & Juliet of the Slums" or perhaps "Pyramis &
Thisbe of Pig Alley.") This isn't a melodrama of life among the lowly,
it's Buster in his youthful prime, and it's funny. There's action and
comedy galore, and it's interesting to observe that the attitude
expressed towards love and marriage is far from sentimental --which is
a little surprising, considering that 24 year-old Buster was still a
fun-loving bachelor when he made this movie.
In any event, once the situation is established we are treated to a series of fast-moving gag sequences emphasizing the hostile relationship between The Girl's father (played by Buster's frequent screen nemesis Big Joe Roberts) and The Boy's father (played by Buster's own dad Joe Keaton). It is clear that the two fathers hold each other in contempt, and vigorously oppose any closer relationship between their respective families. There's a great example of Keaton's special brand of physical comedy early on when Buster attempts to visit Virginia in her third floor room. When he's caught by her father he promptly flings himself out her window, across a clothesline that leads to his own window across the way, down a banister and back across the clothesline to Virginia's building, right smack into Big Joe. The sequence flashes by in seconds and may leave you blinking in amazement, but before you can catch your breath Buster has been forcibly hung upside down by his feet from the clothesline, hauled back across the courtyard like dirty laundry, and then (accidentally) beaten by his father, who has mistaken his own son for a rug. Moments later, Buster is dumped head-first through a rain barrel into sopping wet mud. And so it goes! Welcome to This Poet's Dream Garden.
Neighbors is a comedy better seen than described. At times it feels like a live-action Warner Brothers cartoon, but instead of Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam we're watching actual people perform these stunts. The premise of feuding families is a simple and effective framework for Keaton's terrific set-pieces. (He would return to the family feud motif on a much grander scale in Our Hospitality a few years later.) The rougher slapstick material is briefly held in check as the brawling families are dragged into court, chastised by a judge, and ordered to permit their offspring to wed. But needless to say the ceremony is a disaster, and the action resumes with a wild finale in which Buster and Virginia escape from their families to elope. The best gag sequence is saved for last, as Buster takes part in a three-man balancing act racing through the streets, a bit that required the participation of the Flying Escalantes, a team of acrobats Buster knew from his vaudeville days. Latter day cartoon directors such as Chuck Jones and Tex Avery often gave credit to the influential silent era comedians they'd admired as kids, and the finale of this film must surely have been the sort of thing they were talking about.
While Neighbors may not rank in the very top tier of Keaton's output it's an exhilarating, highly amusing comedy that holds up well today. Besides, Buster's second-echelon efforts are better than most anyone else's masterworks!
Being one of Keaton's earliest and most recognised short film,
Neighbours is full of passion, fast-paced, frantic and at times even
romantically touching. It's innocent, light-hearted and airy, and just
about sums up Buster's earliest work, going from slapstick nonsense to
refreshing (for the time) character-driven gags that deliver just as
well. Sure enough the feature is not without its drawbacks which do
hinder the overall pacing and breezy feeling present in the short's
best moments. Much like The Balloonatic, the greatest parts here lie in
acts one and three, with the middle section giving way to fine moments
of zany antics, but with plenty of superfluous additions to boot.
The plot here follows a young man and woman madly in love as they attempt to bring themselves together against their begrudging families. What follows is a piece of hilarious and wild twenty minute entertainment full of laughs and great images. Keaton himself is truly captivating as always, and delivers some of his most inspired and tricky stunts here which do well to thrill and bring up a laugh or two out of the sheer spectacle of what is going on. Throw in a beautiful supporting actress, and a whole host of very vivid personalities backing Buster, plus troublesome trousers, quarrelling families and you have a film that is sure to stick with you, despite its obvious inconsistencies and less successful moments.
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This is one of the few short films that was understated on the back on
the DVD. Usually they make it sound better than it often winds up.
Despite little buildup, this was tremendous fun for 18 minutes.
The very beginning is very innocent as Harold and Virginia Fox exchange love notes through a peephole in a fence that divides their family's tenement properties. Quickly, the parents of each come out, intercept the messages, disapprove, meddle further and then get involved in one wild and crazy scene after another. Featured are some terrific stunts and just general madness and mayhem with one funny sight gag after another. This is so frenetic that it has to be seen, not read about. Just be ready for a wild ride of feuding neighbors and cops.
It does calm down for a minute or two when a judge makes the parents sign a "peace treaty." Harold then announces he and Virginia are going to get married.....and they try to do that but, a combination of pants that won't stay up (don't ask) and Virginia's father, Big Joe Roberts, break that up. Now we go back to slapstick and clever scenes as Buster's friends help get his girl back. It's another crazy finish, albeit a short one.
It's very inventive stuff and one of Harold's best. It is an extra on the "Seven Chances" DVD. Note: Playing Buster's dad in here was his real-life father, Joe Keaton.
Buster is in love with his next door neighbor, but her father hates Buster and won't allow them to see each other. As a result, again and again, Buster does a lot of crazy stunts in order to see her--as well as eventually kidnap her so they can elope. The stunts are amazing and this is a very good movie. However, if it weren't for all his better brilliant films, I might have scored this a bit higher. But films such as STEAMBOAT BILL, JR., COPS, OUR HOSPITALITY and THE PLAY HOUSE (among others) are simply better than NEIGHBORS. So, I would recommend you try watching these other films and then come back to it. Still, it's enjoyable and fun.
A BUSTER KEATON Silent Short.
Buster's romance with the pretty girl across the back fence leads to great trouble with the NEIGHBORS.
Keaton's superb athletic abilities are highlighted in this very funny little film. The backs of the tenement houses were constructed to Buster's exact physical specifications, giving him hand & foot holds precisely where he would need them, allowing him to climb, slide, cling, tumble, etc., culminating in the hilarious three-man high stunts that climax the film. Big Joe Roberts plays the beefy papa of Buster's beloved.
Born into a family of Vaudevillian acrobats, Buster Keaton (1895-1966) mastered physical comedy at a very early age. An association with Fatty Arbuckle led to a series of highly imaginative short subjects and classic, silent feature-length films - all from 1920 to 1928. Writer, director, star & stuntman - Buster could do it all and his intuitive genius gave him almost miraculous knowledge as to the intricacies of film making and of what it took to please an audience. More akin to Fairbanks than Chaplin, Buster's films were full of splendid adventure, exciting derring-do and the most dangerous physical stunts imaginable. His theme of a little man against the world, who triumphs through bravery & ingenuity, dominates his films. Through every calamity & disaster, Buster remained the Great Stone Face, a stoic survivor in a universe gone mad.
In the late 1920's Buster was betrayed by his manager/brother-in-law and his contract was sold to MGM, which proceeded to nearly destroy his career. Teamed initially with Jimmy Durante and eventually allowed small roles in mediocre comedies, Buster was for 35 years consistently given work far beneath his talent. Finally, before lung cancer took him at age 70, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his classic films were being rediscovered. Now, well past his centenary, Buster Keaton is routinely recognized & appreciated as one of cinema's true authentic geniuses. And he knew how to make people laugh...
*** (out of 4)
Buster Keaton does the Romeo and Juliet storyline as he falls in love with his neighbor but it'll be hard to get married since the families hate one another. There are plenty of good gags here including the human fly swatter gag and the stuff dealing with Keaton trying to avoid the police. Keaton also delivers one of his best stunts and three people on one another's shoulders try and walk from house to house with Keaton being three stories up.
Available on Kino's The Art of Buster Keaton Collection, which is one of the greatest box sets out there.
"Neighbors" is a very entertaining Buster Keaton short comedy featuring some hilarious slapstick and some good stunts. It takes place in a tenement complex, with Buster and Virginia Fox playing young lovers who live in buildings separated by a wooden fence. Their families don't like each other, and do what they can to undermine the romance, but without success. It's very funny right from the beginning, with Buster and Virginia slipping love notes through a knothole in the fence, and having them intercepted by one parent after another. There are lots of slapstick antics, and one of the funniest wedding scenes you will see. There are also some good stunts and brief chase scenes - in other words, a little bit of everything that Keaton was known for. It would probably be best appreciated by those who are already fans, but if you enjoy Keaton, don't miss this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Neighbors" is a 18-minute short film from 95 years ago. The star here is silent film legend Buster Keaton and his co-stars are people he regularly worked with like Virginia Fox and Joe Roberts. These two are prime examples of people who did not make the transition to the sound era. Fox was only 17 when this was made and her career was over by when she was 20. Also on board is Keaton's father, who also plays his father in this movie. And finally we have Edward F. Cline who wrote and directed this film together with Stoneface and plays a police officer in here. It's a black-and-white film and a silent movie of course still. It has intertitles, however, for example the funny one about marriage. It's a bit of a comedic approach to the famous Romeo & Juliet idea, but unfortunately none of the comedy was really funny I must say. Certainly not among Buster's best works. Watch something else from him instead.
Silent genius Buster Keaton takes his usual lumps from his dad among
others in Neighbors, a Romeo and Juliet scenario set in the visually
tight confines of next door neighbors back "yards".
Once again Keaton throws care to the wind as he performs a series of what had to be injury inducing stunts. Keaton's feats are remarkable but there is little time for subtlety as well as a small stage to perform that stunts growth. But with Keaton then and as he proved 45 years later on Candid Camera all the space he needed was a lunch counter. Not even Burt Lancaster was as acrobatic as Buster in his prime and no one was as daring.
In addition to Keaton's acrobatics a supporting cast (featuring a sweet performance by Virgina Fox) all comically contribute in moments of blown out of proportion misunderstandings.
Buster Keaton rarely played low lifes. He played naive or boyish aristocrats who were loners, friendless and lost in modern society with social malaise sewn into the seams. Here, he plays a mischievous imp, a character Chaplin perfected as the tramp and all hell lets loose. Obviously, he is in love with his neighbor, but the family is feuding though they share the same backyard. A billet-a-doux gets everything moving as mistaken identity and information leads to some yelling and scolding before the real truth is figured. "Old Stone face" himself as he was known unleashes some very nifty and nimble acrobatic moves as he slides up and down the electric lines and clothes hanger lines like a jabberwocky. A three man stunt is ridiculous to watch and leaves you applauding and marveling at his genius.
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