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The Goat (1921)

 -  Comedy | Short  -  15 May 1921 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,729 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 6 critic

A series of adventures begins when an accident during photographing causes Buster to be mistaken for Dead Shot Dan, the evil badguy.


, (as Mal St. Clair)
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Complete credited cast:
The Goat
Virginia Fox ...
The Police Chief's Daughter
Joe Roberts ...
Police Chief
Malcolm St. Clair ...
Dead Shot Dan (as Mal St. Clair)


Buster is inadvertently identified as the notorious outlaw Dead Shot Dan. He is pursued throughout the city by the local police chief, using disguises and quick-thinking to elude the lawman. He encounters Virginia, a young lady friend, and goes to her home to visit and hide out, only to discover that Virginia's father is the police chief. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Short


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Release Date:

15 May 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Goat  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Genius at work-- and he makes it look so easy!
15 August 2005 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

I hardly know where to begin in writing about this gem, except to say that it represents young Buster Keaton at the peak of his powers and must certainly rank with the half-dozen best short comedies ever made. The Goat is twenty minutes of smoothly paced, expertly photographed, beautifully executed gags; two reels of non-stop comic invention driven by an intense undercurrent of paranoia and yet somehow leading to a happy ending -- which wasn't always the way with Buster's short comedies. (See Cops for one case where Fatalism ultimately got the better of him, or One Week for the victory of Defeatism.) If I had to describe the tone of this film in one word I'd call it "effortless," but if I were permitted a qualifier I'd call it "seemingly effortless," for surely a lot of hard labor goes into the making of any comic opus that unfolds with such sublime ease. Still, they didn't call him the Great Stone Face for nothing: Buster never let the public see him sweat.

A sardonic title card tells us that our opening sequence is set "along Millionaires' Row," i.e. on a bread line in a grim urban setting, where Buster waits patiently at the back of the line and, as a result, doesn't get fed. But it needs to be emphasized that not for one moment does he play for pathos; Buster has our sympathy, but he never asks for it. Before long, through a series of accidents, coincidences and absurd misunderstandings, Buster is believed to be an escaped killer named Dead Shot Dan and is being pursued by every cop for miles around, and yet while he's clearly dismayed by this turn of events there is never a hint of self-pity or even surprise. We get the sense he always knew that this is what life would have in store for him, and that he hasn't time to feel sorry for himself anyway, as he has to figure out new ways to dodge all those cops and escape from the latest trap.

Just as Buster refrains from playing for sympathy he never seems to strain for laughs either, which is especially impressive because The Goat must be one of the most laugh-packed short comedies in existence. This is the film containing that iconic shot of Buster riding a train's cow-catcher right up to the very lens of the camera, which isn't a gag exactly but sure is laugh-provoking in its own strange way. Meanwhile, there are bits involving guns, dogs, cops, an incredibly furry mustache, and a clay statue of a horse that melts under Buster's weight (a surreal sight indeed), but some of the biggest boffos are saved for the finale when Buster is trying to elude his primary nemesis, Big Joe Roberts, a rotund cop who also happens to be the father of leading lady Virginia Fox. Trapped in Big Joe's dining room, Buster leap-frogs over him and sails through a transom, turns a phone-booth into an elevator and pretends to disappear, and eventually uses the elevator itself to rid himself of his pursuer and win the girl in time for one last fade-out gag.

To say more would be a disservice to first-time viewers. I only wish I could see this film in a theater full of people who'd never seen it before, and float on the laughter. Live musical accompaniment would be nice too; and incidentally the musical score supplied by Kino for their home video/DVD version of The Goat is first-rate, serving as icing on an already tasty cake.

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