THE BALLOONATIC, 1923
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Random. †This may perhaps be the best word to describe 1923's "The Balloonatic," starring "the great stone face," Buster Keaton. †While the title of this film alludes to being about a balloon, the actual balloon is only a point of focus at the beginning and the very end of the film. †As with some of Keaton's other films, it becomes hard to connect some of his hijinks to a solid plotline.
For example, the film cleverly opens in the "House of Trouble" during some type of carnival, where the audience is first greeted by a skeleton and a scared Keaton. †Only after several moments, does the audience realize where they are, making the beginning of the film look almost like a comedic horror movie. †Buster then attempts to woo women throughout the carnival, with, as was his trademark, little success. He eventually off wonders to a hot air balloon, where both Buster and the film take off.
The early balloon part of the film is perhaps the most interesting. This section showcases Keaton's physical excellence, as he dangles from the hot air balloon ropes, and is able to maneuver himself from the top of the balloon to inside of the basket. †Additionally, what makes this, as well as the end section so unique, is what could be considered special effects for that time period. †The balloon does appear to be floating, as it must have been hung on some kind of rafters and placed in front of a blank background. Furthermore, the balloon prior to the balloon landing in the wilderness, there is an impressive puff of smoke, making it appear the balloon burst.
It may also be interesting to note nature itself certinaly acts as a character in this film, from the wind that sends him to the wilderness, to the lake where he almost drowns, and to the wildlife (the film boasts a cast of animals that include a bear and a cow, among others). Instead of a handsome man who loves the same woman as the villian’s to Keaton’s hopeless hero, it is a nice change to see Keaton battle something else.
Overall, this film is decent if one is able to watch in a certain context, though as a Keaton fan, I would not consider this, by any means his best. †At times the film is somewhat mediocre and hard to watch without a soundtrack. †The film itself runs about twenty-two minutes though it seemed more like an hour. †Buster Keaton fans would enjoy it, however, if a first time viewer of Keaton saw this, it could perhaps turn them off to him.