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A satire of western movies. Roscoe comes into town after riding the rails. The saloon has a trap door over a pit where bodies are tossed as they are shot. A black patron is taunted and shot... See full summary »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Train Rider, Bartender
... Sheriff / Saloon Owner
... Wild Bill Hiccup
... Salvation Army Woman
... Man on train
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ernie Morrison Sr.
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Storyline

A satire of western movies. Roscoe comes into town after riding the rails. The saloon has a trap door over a pit where bodies are tossed as they are shot. A black patron is taunted and shot at. Roscoe and Buster do everything they can to keep Al from Alice. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Western | Comedy

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

20 January 1918 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Sheriff  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Trivia

One of the few films in which Buster Keaton smiles. See more »

Connections

Featured in Den gamle biograf: Episode #1.9 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Buster and Roscoe play rough
15 August 2005 | by See all my reviews

Once they started working together Buster Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle made their first half-dozen short comedies in New York, from spring through autumn of 1917. Late that year Arbuckle relocated his "Comique" production company to Southern California, and the gang celebrated the move with an elaborate two-reel comedy called Out West, a satire on the hard-bitten variety of Westerns cranked out by William S. Hart and Broncho Billy Anderson in the early days of motion pictures. The result is a distinctly harsh comedy that doesn't hold up as well as most of the other Arbuckle-Keaton Comique collaborations. This is the sort of movie in which our hero spikes a horse's water supply with liquor just for laughs, someone gets shot in the butt in almost every scene, lots of Injuns and Mexicans get killed, and a dozen bottles are smashed over the villain's head without effect, at which point a six-shooter is emptied into him, also without effect.

The comedy in Out West is so violent some of it actually works as parody -- which, after all, is how it was intended. When a cheating gambler is fatally shot, grim-faced saloon proprietor Buster coolly disposes of his body through a convenient trap-door, and this still works as a jab at actual Westerns where violent death is treated as routinely as the ringing of the phone. Next, when the bartender is shot down and Buster instantly puts up a sign reading "Bartender Wanted," it's darkly funny although the joke is starting to wear a bit thin. But the joke is ruined when a gang of sadistic cowboys torment a black man by shooting at his feet to make him dance, and Buster & Roscoe join right in. They only stop when stern Salvation Army lass Alice Lake enters and puts a halt to the rough-housing, saying "Aren't you ashamed?" They are, and they put away their guns, but the mood has soured. (I first saw this comedy at a public screening during a Keaton festival some years ago, and although it had been going over fairly well up to that point this sequence totally killed the laughter for the duration of the running time.)

Even allowing that Out West is a parody, a lot of the material -- and not just the racial humor -- is in surprisingly poor taste for these guys, although fortunately it's a lapse that was not repeated in their subsequent careers. There are some good gags here, even some clever ones, but they're practically lost in the shuffle, weakened in impact by the prevailing callous tone.

Out West is currently available on video and DVD in two releases, from Kino and from Image Entertainment, and it's worth noting that the two versions differ significantly. The Kino print is badly tattered and missing several bits that survive in the Image release, which looks better in general. Also, the two prints have been edited differently, and several dialog titles and a couple of character names differ in the respective versions; this isn't unusual with films from the silent era, which were frequently altered for foreign releases or even to suit local taste in various locales within the U.S. The Image version features jaunty period music well selected for individual sequences, while the Kino release features music by a group called the Alloy Orchestra that I find mostly jarring and inappropriate, to put it politely. Over all I'd say that anyone interested in seeing this film should seek out the Image Entertainment version, but be forewarned that Out West does not show off either Buster Keaton or Roscoe Arbuckle to best advantage.


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