A professional magician, "The Great Spumoni", fires his male assistant and his female assistant insists that he hire another one. The young man he hires turns out to have no aptitude whatsoever for a magic act. Complications ensue.
Elmer Doolittle,a hired hand on a farm,encounters some complications in his romancing and believes he will have to marry the farm-owner aunt of Molly, the pretty girl he loves. Further ... See full summary »
Elmer owns a gas station out in the California desert. Soon he has a business rival in Jim, who opens up another station, and is also trying to steal Elmer's girlfriend. She plays both ... See full summary »
Elmer Doolittle (Buster Keaton), an apprentice seaman doing training at the U. S. Navy's San Diego Training Station, can't seem to keep out of trouble or the brig. Most of his problems ... See full summary »
During the shots when Keaton is up the ladder tackling the fire (presumably shot indoors on a sound-stage), the sky is dark and it appears to be night-time. Every time the film cuts away to show people arriving in the street outside, the sun is shining and it's broad daylight. See more »
With many of Keaton's cut-rate 1930s two-reelers, one gets the impression that the studio put more effort into thinking up a snappy title than script; and "Blue Blazes" is scarcely an exception. I saw this film as a 16mm print which featured some "Singin' in the Rain"-style sound effects as the cast clumped around the elevated sections of the sound-stage: fortunately much of the action takes place outside. I don't know if this sound quality reflects the original, but frankly I wouldn't be surprised!
"Blue Blazes" boasts a couple of genuinely funny shots, real Keaton-moments; unsurprisingly, these are sight gags and probably Keaton's own contribution. Much of the action, however, doesn't appeal to me, and I think this is because it's basically clowning, rather than the ingenuity and misdirection I associate with Keaton's silent films. It's an art-form he respected, but it's not one I've ever really enjoyed, in the circus or out of it.
The plot features yet another 'Elmer', a fireman (of the fire-fighting variety, alas, rather than the type to be found on the footplate of Buster's beloved trains!) whose salient quality is that he keeps vanishing with unfortunate timing and hence never manages actually to attend any fires. This tends to involve falling down man-holes, out of windows, etc., and thus involves Keaton in a lot of acting generally inept, thrusting out his chin and mumbling; however, while this kind of plot typically involves the underdog 'making good', here, with the exception of a few characteristic moments of resource, the hero remains more or less inept to the end. In classic Keaton comedy, while the central character may be unsuccessful or incompetent (e.g. "The Frozen North", "Daydreams"), it's not for lack of misapplied ingenuity -- "Blue Blazes" aims to get its laughs more in the style of a Harry Langdon vehicle, and as such it's not really up my street. Others may find this a lot more amusing.
Sharp-eyed viewers will spot references to "The Goat" and "One Week" among the gags, and those alert to such things (I totally missed this one until it was pointed out to me!) can take note of a major -- and repeated -- continuity error towards the end...
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