director Buster Keaton
Vying for variety in our ever-changing, weekly movie night experience, I queued up another Buster Keaton feature that we had yet to see, his 1925 film, Seven Chances. The plot device was adapted from a play and is something we’ve seen time and again ever since. He’s a failing businessman who receives note of a $7 million inheritance that stipulates that he must be married by 6pm on that very day. When he manages to offend his long-time girlfriend, it’s up to his buddy and an attorney to try to get him set up. His comic foibles of attempting to woo women add up to zilch. Until his friend posts in the newspaper that this millionaire is out looking for a bride and to meet at the chapel by 5 o’clock…well then. Half of Southern California’s female populace are suddenly on the scene.
And that’s where the movie gets going. Literally. Keaton spends almost the rest of the film running from a mob of angry women as he tries to get back to his girl. He races over hill and dale, through a train yard, down a steep hill with tumbling rocks, leaping, bounding, pratfalling. Maybe it’s not the pure brilliance of some of his other films, but the last half hour of non-stop gags and action are top-notch Keaton and hilarious, inventive, physical genius.
The first part of the film is a bit slow and the comedy doesn’t really snap quite as cleverly as it might. But the finale, a sort of formula for Keaton films, of the big hectic action, chase, what-have-you is ultimately what he’s all about. The kids enjoyed it quite a bit, not in comparison, but just plain enjoyed it. Which is really what watching Keaton is all about. Fun. And his daring stunts, which you have to remind yourself and the kids at times were physical stunts without nets or tricks make him, like Jackie Chan after him, such an incredible unique talent.