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  • knsevy2 December 2003
    Warning: Spoilers

    Many critics and scholars contend that Keaton was at his funniest and most brilliant in his silent comedy short films, and I happen to agree. While his feature films are certainly enjoyable, they don't pack in the laughs as thick and fast as his one- and two-reelers, and 'The Boat' is one of his two best, in my opinion (the other being 'One Week').

    From beginning to end, the gags come in rapid-fire succession, from our first illusion of Buster in 'rough seas' to his final, silently-spoken pun, and what a series of gems they are. Any of the silent comedians could have built a boat too large to get out of their garage, and some of them would have come up with the idea to have it demolish the house when they try to pull it away. Only Buster, however, could play the tragedy with such a non-reaction. He walks stoically back to the wreckage, unearths the family bathtub to replace his boat's demolished lifeboat, walks back to his flivver and drives away, boat in tow.

    If anything, the gags arrive TOO fast, in come cases (though that impression may only come from viewing a modern edit). Stan Laurel, genius of film editing that he was, timed the laughter of the audience at his previews, then went back and recut the film to lengthen certain shots so the laughs didn't overlap the next gag. Of course, this is less important in a Keaton silent than in a Laurel & Hardy talkie, but in my earliest viewings of this film, I actually missed some of the subtler gags because I was still reacting to the big knee-slapper which preceded it (for instance, after Buster has accidentally dumped one of his sons overboard, he throws the boy a life preserver, which sinks like a stone).

    A key difference between this short and almost all of others is the presence of a leading lady who actually has a developed personality. Most of Buster's leading ladies were treated primarily as props and decorations, but Sybil Seely lets us know early on in the film that she's the long-suffering wife of a man who's a little absent from reality, and very little he does is going to surprise or upset her unduly.

    This film contains what may be the single funniest and most iconic scene of the entire silent comedy genre: the launching. Once again, it's not just the gag itself, but Buster's reaction to it, that turns it from a funny sight gag into a hilarious, textured joke. As the boat is released and slides down the launching ramp, Buster standing firmly on the bow with his back to the camera, the ship proceeds to slide directly down under the water. Even as the water is slipping over his little ship, Buster determinedly stands rock-steady on the bow. The water passes over his shoes, and still he stands. The water reaches his waist, and he remains immobile. Only as the water reaches his chin does he suddenly seem to acknowledge the fact that his boat is sinking with him on it, and make an effort to escape.

    If you've not been exposed to Keaton's masterpieces, this is a good film to start with. If you're already a fan, I suggest you use this film as the first Keaton film you show to your friends who are unfamiliar with him.
  • While I love everything Keaton did, I particularly like his short comedies the best. They're packed full of gags and it's always an endless laugh riot from beginning to end. The Boat is one of my favorites, along with The Scarecrow and One Week. Keaton's brusque treatment of his children in this short speaks to my heart since I'm not very fond of children, either. The gag where he measures the temperature of the water before jumping in to save his kid from drowning is priceless and I never cease to laugh. This short is also an early example of Keaton's ability to take one prop and base a whole story around it, a la The General. Sybil Seeley is also excellent as his patient wife and her performances in Keaton's other shorts are equally delightful.
  • This funny short comedy has some good subtle gags, in addition to Buster Keaton's usual assortment of slapstick gags and gadgets. For having such a closely-confined setting, there is a rather impressive variety of material, and the story and the cast make good use of every possibility.

    The movie starts with a clever opening shot, the kind of misdirection joke that Keaton was so good at carrying out in an offhand way. The opening scene also sets up the rest of the action very nicely. The comedy that follows on "The Boat" is at times unrefined, but it has some very amusing moments.

    Buster gets pretty good mileage out of the props and also from the family relationships. Sybil Seely (who was in some of Keaton's best short features) portrays his patient wife, and the reactions of her and the children to some of Keaton's antics add to the comedy.
  • caspian197827 March 2005
    This was a short that had no long term goals. If not from dumb luck, this movie could have been lost forever. This was found among a series of other shorts that Keaton had kept at home. In many ways, this is a rip off of Chaplin. Nothing seems to go right for this little "Tramp" as he is pushed around and put into one situation after another. Not as funny as many other Keaton classics, it is worth keeping on tape for future generations to enjoy. In many ways, this and The Love Nest are often found with Keaton's classic the Navigator. Both have to do with Keaton on the Ocean. This alone keep them together in a category. If you like Keaton, you'll enjoy this one. If not, you'll agree that this is a dime a dozen for Keaton.
  • This is definitely one of Buster Keaton's better short films. The key is the simplicity of the premise...Keaton's character builds a houseboat...and the multitude of problems that it causes.

    The jokes are simple but usually funny (even now in our more "enlightened times" and Keaton's slapstick acrobatics are, as usual, simply wonderful to watch. He uses that one basic, if large, prop...the great effect.

    And the final line, while an old joke, is still funny.
  • A BUSTER KEATON Silent Short.

    THE BOAT which Buster's family builds and launches immediately tries to kill them.

    This funny little film is an unusual one for Buster, in that he's already quite domesticated - with wife & children - when the story commences. The viewer is supposed to read Buster's lips to get the film's final joke.

    Born into a family of Vaudevillian acrobats, Buster Keaton (1895-1966) mastered physical comedy at a very early age. An association with Fatty Arbuckle led to a series of highly imaginative short subjects and classic, silent feature-length films - all from 1920 to 1928. Writer, director, star & stuntman - Buster could do it all and his intuitive genius gave him almost miraculous knowledge as to the intricacies of film making and of what it took to please an audience. More akin to Fairbanks than Chaplin, Buster's films were full of splendid adventure, exciting derring-do and the most dangerous physical stunts imaginable. His theme of a little man against the world, who triumphs through bravery & ingenuity, dominates his films. Through every calamity & disaster, Buster remained the Great Stone Face, a stoic survivor in a universe gone mad.

    In the late 1920's Buster was betrayed by his manager/brother-in-law and his contract was sold to MGM, which proceeded to nearly destroy his career. Teamed initially with Jimmy Durante and eventually allowed small roles in mediocre comedies, Buster was for 35 years consistently given work far beneath his talent. Finally, before lung cancer took him at age 70, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his classic films were being rediscovered. Now, well past his centenary, Buster Keaton is routinely recognized & appreciated as one of cinema's true authentic geniuses. And he knew how to make people laugh...
  • jldmp18 November 2006
    This is not a bad short's just not a cinematic one. Not everything we see here can exclusively be expressed in the film medium.

    On the other hand, there are some first rate sight gags. Buster is placed in this is as a 'builder', who destroys things far more often than he creates them. Hole in the side of the boat? Nail a pancake over it. Pancake falls off and springs a leak? Drill a hole in the floor for 'drainage'. Your boat capsizes over and over? Nail your shoes to the boards. Who sent the distress signal? "Dam f i no!"

    The rotating boat gag is extremely influential; the 'zero gravity' scenes in "2001" can claim lineage from this. But the gags only work as isolated events; nothing really ties this all together, and therein lies the movie's weakness.
  • Buster Keaton just wants to take his family out on a pleasant boat trip to enjoy some sea breezes and sunshine. A simple enough request, no? Well if you've ever seen a Buster Keaton movie, you already know the answer to that question....

    A pretty funny short that involves many of the pratfalls you would expect in a slapstick comedy about a doomed boating expedition -- people falling in the water (a lot), a dinner preparation gone all wrong when nothing is tied down, a storm and its predictable outcome on our beleaguered hero. A cute twist at the end reveals that our protagonist family was never in any danger to begin with.

    The name of Keaton's boat is the Damfino, which provides a running joke and gives the film its final punchline.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film for a silent short has a lot of elaborate sight gags, more than you'd expect. There are a lot of foreshadowing scenes of how funny & elaborate Keatons films would become here.

    The film has an opening sequence which reveals the boat interior set used in the film. An interesting way to open.

    Keaton is the father with a wife & two young sons who is building a boat in his basement. When he finishes his project, he names it Dam fino & finds it will not fit out of the basement door. So he enlarges the basement door, & then hooks the boat up to the car & pulls it out- pulling the house down with it. Remember, in this era prior to special effects this pulling the house down is an elaborate gag. They are really pulling the house down.

    Next- Buster & his family are trying to launch the Dam fino & have all kinds of trouble doing it. When it finally goes off the ramp, the boat & Buster promptly sink.

    With no explanation, in the next sequence the boat is actually floating. Keaton & one of his sons do a routine involving the setting up the smokestack on the Dam fino & trying to find the kid inside the stack which is good physical comedy that is a prelude to what Keaton would do later, & would train Lucille Ball how to do.

    Classic in this - the first use of "cruise control" with the boat going without a pilot while everyone is below. The below decks often seem much larger than the above decks.

    The voyage the boat goes on has a lot of perils, many of which are amazing sight gags for this era. In the end, the Dam fino sinks & the family are all floating in a bath tub. Then, the tub starts to sink, but stops when it hits the bottom of shallow water.

    The family walks up on shore together & one of them asks dad where they are. Without needing lip reading skills- Keaton mouths to the camera "Damn if I know". A clever ending for a movie full of impossible sight & physical gags.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a very good Buster Keaton silent comedy short from 1921. However, unlike most of his other films where he is either co-starring with another guy (such as Fatty Arbuckle) or going solo, in this case everything he does, he does with the family in tow.

    Buster and his wife are building a boat in the garage. Unfortunately, it's much larger than the opening and so Buster is forced to cut the garage door opening larger. You discover it still isn't large enough as the boat rips the entire side of the house off and destroys most of the home. Now THAT'S a sight gag! Once out of the house, dopey Buster doesn't fare much better. He manages to lose his car off the end of the dock, and later once they've been at sea a while, the boat sinks but our family somehow survives.

    The movie excels because it has a real plot--it's not just slapstick. Also, the stunts, when they are done, are BIG and very impressive!
  • 'The Boat' shows Buster Keaton as a boat builder, taking his wife and two children to the launch of his boat. As the four hit the ocean they learn there are quite some surprises to this boat. That things will not happen as planned is an understatement. Although there are quite some nice gags in this short film, it is only mildly funny.

    The first half is so much more entertaining than the second, which seems a little boring. It uses more of the same gags and the new ones play too long. Keaton is able to show his physical a couple of time, using the entire boat as a prop, making this short a nice part in his oeuvre. On the other hand, he could have done without 'The Boat'.
  • In his prime, there was nobody quite like Buster Keaton, deservedly considered one of the greats in silent comedy. Nobody back then and even now were as daring when it came to high-risk stunt work in physical comedy and he was an unparallelled master at making deadpan both funny and expressive. Something that one doesn't see an awful lot as many would struggle at doing one of those let alone both well.

    There may be disaster after disaster happening in the story on the boat, but there is nothing at all disastrous about the quality of 1921's 'The Boat'. Like to love Keaton's short films, and 'The Boat' in my mind is one of his best. Any fan of Keaton absolutely must see this, it is really amazing to have a single confined setting and see 'The Boat' making the absolute most of it in a way that is variety-rich, visually appealing, always energetic and non-stop fun and charm.

    Visually, 'The Boat' may not be ground-breaking but it is well shot and doesn't make the boat setting too restricted, so it never becomes stagebound-like. In fact, the boat setting and what is done with it is one of the short's most striking aspects.

    A lot of funny and even hilarious moments, beautifully timed, deliciously wacky and it never feels too much. All of them work, when you watch 'The Boat' having just watched a good comedy albeit with a couple of misses in the humour department or a comedy that is not funny at all and not good in quality too that is great. There is enough variety to not make it all repetitive. Some of the more physical work is energetic, if not as daring as some of Keaton's other work, and in distinctive Keaton fashion, so expect a lot of dexterity. The measuring of the water temperature scene is priceless.

    While a very slight one, the story is charming and never dull, actually having a breackneck energy and the family relationship has heart and doesn't become too sentimental. Sybil Seeley is charming and compassionate, but the short belongs to Keaton. In a huge number of roles executed simultaneously and handled expertly. Such great comic timing and he is worth rooting for as well (even with the character's treatment of his children), his unique quality of his deadpan delivery never faltering.

    Summarising, wonderful. 10/10
  • Wow, he doesn't really hold back for one of Keaton's short films, it has all the technical brilliance of his full-length movies. Another thing that stood out here is how, while Keaton's movies usually focus entirely on him, here the actors playing his family (including two kids) do a great job of keeping w / Keaton up?s humor. And for a trivia that's interesting?Actually, thanks to James Mason, we got this movie because he found it after Keaton was bought?S house was restored and then saw it?.One more reason to love James.
  • SendiTolver14 September 2018
    This one might not be the best one of Keaton, but the adventures of one family on the self made boat is entertaining enough that it is worth your time. To understand the joke where Buster sends out S.O.S signal is good to know that the name of of the boat 'Damfino' means damned is I know. Also, International Buster Keaton Society (yes, there is such a cool organization) is called 'The Damfinos'.

    Films starts with the scene, where Buster tries to get the boat out of the house and from there, one thing after another goes hilariously wrong that you finally start feel for the heroes. Fantastic scene is where the boat capsizes repeatedly and Buster runs like a hamster in a wheel while trying to send S.O.S. message.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the story of the disastrous maiden voyage of the boat that Buster Keaton built(with some help from his wife, played by Sybil Seely, and 2 sons.) In the first place, Keaton shouldn't have built it in his basement, as it clearly was too tall and too wide to fit through the existing door. He did knock some bricks out to make the door taller, but failed to appreciate that he needed to widen the door, as well. So, when he tried to pull the boat out with his car, the sides of the boat knocked out large sections of the brick wall, destabilizing the house, which promptly collapsed: Disaster #1....... Next, we see the boat in its launching slip. A rope is tied to the boat and car, which is near the end of the pier. Somehow, the car gets pulled off the pier, and into the sea: Disaster # 2. Then, when Keaton pulls the boat out of its mooring, he forgets to release the rope from the pier to the boat, causing the end of the pier to collapse and the people on it to fall in: Disaster : #3....... I must assume his boat runs on a diesel motor. Although he has 2 masts, there's no indication that he has sails. He also has a funnel, like the funnels on a steam ship. For what purpose? These get in the way when the boat has to pass under a low bridge. Fortunately, they have been arranged to fold down on command.......The boat rocks badly when a motor boat passes by, knocking things around in the cabin. Things also slide around when the boat goes up a steep incline, and then down again: a problem apparently unique to this boat! ....... Keaton makes the mistake of nailing a painting to the wall of the cabin, below waterline, resulting in a significant leak, as the nail penetrated through the hull.......During a storm, the boat is tossed about badly, causing things in the cabin to slide around, and water to come in through the port hole. Eventually, the boat turns completely over and over, bringing in more water to the cabin. Probably, the stupidest thing Keaton does is to drill a hole in the boat bottom to let the water out. Of course, this sinks the boat. They all get in the bathtub, which serves as a lifeboat. Unfortunately, one son didn't learn the lesson about drilling a hole in the boat bottom, and pulls the plug in the bathtub, dropping the plug over the side. This might have been fatal, except that they discovered they were in shallow water, near a shore........The peculiar name of the boat: Damfino, comes into play twice. Once when Keaton sends out an SOS, and the receiver asks the name of the craft. The receiver replies "Neither do I". Then, at the end, when Keaton's wife asks "Where are we?", Keaton responds "Damfino!".......See it at YouTube
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The Boat" is a black-and-white short movie from almost 95 years ago. The star here is Buster Keaton and he also wrote and directed it, together with his longtime collaborator Edward F. Cline. And the cast also has familiar names. Apart from Cline, who also acts in this one, the female lead is played by Sibyl Seely, who appeared in many other Keaton movies.

    Well.. the action is very clear. Stoneface is on a boat this time and, of course, there is no other possible ending than Keaton shipwrecked and stranded on an island. If you know how basically everything that he touches in his films turns into chaos, you can only imagine what this would look like on a boat. One major difference to his other works is that there is no real antagonist in here, so Keaton is even more at the center of it all than usual. At 26 minutes, it's one of Keaton's longer short movies. He was only in his mid-20s when he made this and yet together with Chaplin and Lloyd the biggest star of his era. I like him, but I have to say I was not really entertained that well here. Most of the slapstick wasn't particularly funny. That's why I cannot recommend it.