Steamboat Bill Jnr (1928)

Curiously, this was a flop on release, perhaps because there was not quite enough to keep audiences interested before the extended climax, and some of the gags would have been familiar to them from earlier Keaton features.

The plot is a bit tedious, with Keaton's father a surly and unappealing presence throughout the first two thirds, and the part of Keaton's 'girl' underwritten. It lacks the charm of Our Hospitality and the inventiveness of Seven Chances and the narrative coherence of The General (though revisiting all three in various ways).

Nevertheless, the sequence in the hat shop is amusing enough, and the viewer is often invited to anticipate how a gag will play out. Often a still camera simply observes Buster's physical comedy as he moves around the frame. Note for example how he clambers and skips up and down the front of the steamboat; the mystery of the bag of monkey nuts; the plank connecting the two boats when he tries to meet with his intended.

The storm itself is splendid and is in no way inferior to today's SFX and VFX laden blockbusters.

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