I am honestly quite glad that Our Hospitality was the last Buster Keaton left for me to watch from the 1001 list. Whilst I may never get to the point of listing him as among my favourite actors or directors, I am now definitely able to appreciate just how ahead of the curve he was. In terms of film making Buster Keaton was a marvel and an absolutely fearless one at that.
Our Hospitality may not feature some of Keaton’s more breathtaking stunts (although, there is a lot that he does with heights which did startle me) or some of the more massive set pieces that you find in his later films – this is my favourite of his works. I guess that, since he didn’t have to start one-upping himself so much, this films feels like a purer comedic work.
It also featured, what has now become, one of my favourite sequences from a silent film: the train ride. These are scenes that went onto bigger and more death-defying extremes in The General, but in Our Hospitality it feels like the film takes an extended break as we watch a series of sketches poking fun at the old train system. This includes some bespoke tunnels, incredibly bumpy track and that this train could be outrun by a dog when running at medium pelt.
The story of Our Hospitality is an interesting parody of the blood feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families. It’s not something I know too much about, but I get the reference. As a McKay, Keaton spends most of the film trying to not be killed by the bloodthirsty Canfields – the title coming from Keaton’s character making sure to prolong his visit to the Canfield estate for they cannot kill him as long as he is subject to their hospitality.
It’s an interesting story, but the key parts are all the in-between sections where Keaton does his tricks and shows off the skills that made him a vaudeville hit. I only have one silent comedy (and just over 10 silent films in general) left to watch, which feels like getting through a section of the list that is still one of the most alien. It’ll be a weird to say a proper goodbye to the silent 1001 films, but that’s when I’ll start taking deeper dives into the works of people like Abel Gance and Fritz Lang.