Two old soldiers, Jeb and Homer, chat about the Civil War. Homer tells his story of being a Kentucky youth, who enlists with the South only to discover that his brother has joined the Blues. He's captured and his brother frees him, then the tide turns and it's Homer who has to rescue his brother. When the North retakes the town, Homer must use all his wits - and a few short logs of wood - to save himself. Have he and Jeb met before? Written by
Buster and his brother, played by Monty Collins, enlist to fight in the Civil War. But Buster has enlisted in the Confederate Army and Monty has joined the Union Army. However, before they can start their own civil war, in march Union and Confederate troops, and the two spend most of the movie rescuing each other. They know where their loyalties lie.
I am tempted to think that a lot of the material arises from the fact that the writer of this short, Clyde Bruckman, was one of Keaton's gagmen, and was credited as co-director of THE GENERAL, and Monty Collins is the son of the man (also named Monty Collins) who played Buster's father in a couple of his movies in the 1920s. However, any discussion of subtext is rendered ridiculous by the fact that the producer and director of this movie is Jules White, to whom a poke in the eye was subtle. So we must take pleasure, instead, in the fact that this is a sharply written movie, tailored for Buster, and that he executes his falls, as always, wonderfully. For those of you who are interested in the subtleties of the pratfall, there is one scene in which Buster and Monty jump out of a window. Buster does a forward roll and lands flat on his back, while Collins lands on his feet. No one working at the time could take a fall like Buster and it's a pleasure to see him do it .... and to watch Collins not even try to compete.
Continuity issues make this considerably less than a perfect Keaton short, but recall what James Agee said of A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA: second rate Marx Brothers is better than anything else. Well, second rate Keaton is better than anything else also, and this is by no means second rate.
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