The Gold Ghost

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 2, 2015

Well, this is on the cheap, and Keaton is looking, and sounding, the worse for wear. Still, it’s pretty funny! Celebrating Citizen Kane or The General doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate The Trial, or these later shorts that BK made for Educational Pictures. At the start we’ve got that wall-to-wall two-reel comedy music going. A Master working for hire can subject himself to the expectations of his employer. There’s a brief tableau in which helpless, pampered Buster (cf. The Navigator [1924]) is surrounded by the servants whose constant ministrations have made him useless. You can take that one in a few ways.

Off he goes, running out of gas outside of this defunct mining town. Now, instead of music, we get nearly awkward soundtrack silence right out of 1931. (This is 1934.) But it turns out they really make good use of the emptiness. It’s Buster against a dustily decomposed world, and there’s some fine business with him and his props, the empty spaces and the general entropy. A bad guy shows up, and then some slightly predictable Western stuff. (These films are always caught between legend and the banal contemporary.) But when were the Stooges ever surprising? They resolve it quite nicely, as Buster prefigures Bob Hope and Don Knotts (and Jimmy Stewart!) and ineptly, accidentally cleans up the town. The Beatles broke up too. Keep up the good work, Buster!