Essential candid footage of Keaton at work and at play
The Railrodder is an interesting and funny silent short Keaton made in 1964 in which he travels - rather accidentally - via a tiny motorized rail car from the East coast to the West coast of Canada as part of a Canadian travelogue. Meant to be just one of the various industrial films Keaton starred in late in his career, it turned out to be much more than that. This is because filmmaker John Spotton decided to "film the filming of" the Railrodder and thus make a documentary - "Buster Keaton Rides Again". As a result, we get rare - maybe the only - footage of Keaton at work as he comes up with gags, fights for his ideas when the director thinks a particular stunt is too dangerous, and as he basically co-directs by placing a group of workmen where he thinks they should be in a particular shot. We also get to see Keaton at rest and at play - his passion for bridge and baseball, his shyness around large crowds when he is honored by a town he is passing through, and the adorable relationship he had with his third wife Eleanor as she insists that he lie down and rest after a busy day and his response is "I should sell her".
The short and documentary were shot in the autumn of 1964, just some 16 or so months before Keaton's death in February 1966 from lung cancer. A few of Keaton's coughing fits captured on the documentary are thus somewhat sadly prophetic of what is soon to come. Thus this documentary is essential viewing for any Keaton fan because we get to see him as he was at the end of his life - a happy man who still insisted on putting out the best work he could after 65 years in show business.
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