The Saphead


Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten57%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled47%
IMDb Rating6.1101619

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

Top cast

Buster Keaton Photo
Buster Keaton as Bertie Van Alstyne
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
686.18 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 14 min
P/S 0 / 1
1.24 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 14 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by JohnHowardReid10 / 10

Just wonderful!

Copyright 11 October 1920 by Metro Pictures Corp. U.S. release: 18 October 1920. New York opening at the Capitol: 13 February 1921. 7 reels. 77 minutes.

NOTES: Final movie of 19-year-old Beulah Booker (who presumably retired in favor of marriage). A revival of the stage play, "The New Henrietta", opened on Broadway on 22 December 1913. It starred Douglas Fairbanks as Bertie, William H. Crane, Amelia Bingham and Patricia Collinge. In 1915, Fairbanks starred in a considerably modified movie version, The Lamb, for D.W. Griffith.

COMMENT: Always a pleasure just to look at, this most beautifully photographed comedy is not your typical Keaton vehicle-and all the better for that innovation. True, he does have some wonderful routines with a roulette table and a corrupt cop, a bungled wedding, and two glorious slapstick highjinks on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. But his is basically a character role, and his occasional facial expressions are priceless. The support players form an especially fine ensemble. Every role is judiciously cast. Crane, Booker and Cummings are especially adept. The direction is highly polished, the photography superb, the settings most attractive.

AVAILABLE on DVD through Kino. Quality rating: 10 out of ten.

Reviewed by MartinHafer6 / 10

Keaton out of his element...

This is Buster Keaton's first feature-length film. And, oddly, it is not the type project you'd expect this very physical comedian to attempt. It seems that Douglas Fairbanks had done a play on stage and the studios wanted to film it. However, Fairbanks had other commitments and recommended Keaton play his part. Such a role was right up Fairbanks' alley. Despite his reputation today as strictly a swashbuckler, he made some nice comedies in his time, though none of them bore any semblance to Keaton's more acrobatic comedies. And so unfortunately, Keaton looks rather out of place in this film. This isn't to say he's bad, but compared to what you'd expect, his character is amazingly subdued and dull.

The story is about a rich family where the father thinks his son, Keaton, is an idiot. Heck, he refers to him as a "saphead", so it's obvious that this severe man isn't father of the year material. As for Keaton, he's a pretty dim bulb and again and again he's a disappointment to his old man. However, late in the film the family's fortune is squandered by the father's beloved son-in-law and only later (and rather by accident),Keaton saves the day.

While I was far from thrilled by this low-key comedy (with few laughs),I must say that the print from Kino is excellent--especially given its age. Plus, in addition to seeing this film, they also have packaged two shorts, THE HIGH SIGN and ONE WEEK, on the same DVD.

Reviewed by slokes5 / 10

A Sort Of Beginning

He's rich, he's a bit lazy, he gets the girl in the first half-hour, he even smiles a bit. It's not the Buster Keaton you expect. But he's still Keaton, and even if his first feature film creaks a good deal, he keeps you entertained.

"The Saphead" presents the story of Bertie Van Alstyne (Keaton),son of Wall Street tycoon Nicholas Van Alstyne (William H. Crane). Bertie lives a life of Manhattan luxury but secretly pines for the beautiful Agnes (Beulah Booker),who secretly pines for Bertie in turn. Happiness appears at hand until a strange turn of events shatters their union.

A 1920 production of a hit stage play, "The Saphead" was designed to fit audience conventions of the day, not showcase Keaton's still-emerging comic persona. Sentiment and improbable coincidences run rampant here. Given that, it's impressive how well the Keaton we would come to know is presented. He is given many chances to present his clownish athleticism, as well as that expressionless-yet-not-emotionless manner that has beguiled film lovers for decades.

Was Herbert Blaché, the credited director, preternaturally wise to Keaton's style? Or did Keaton just know how to get his way even before he enjoyed full control of his features?

The problem with "The Saphead" is not Keaton, but its construction. In the first ten minutes, we are introduced to everyone in the film except Bertie, and given background about an adulterous affair that is then dropped for the Bertie story. Forty-five minutes in the two story lines come together, and in such a convoluted way as to beggar belief. Bertie is somehow pressed into taking the blame for the affair, even though it's obvious his brother-in-law is the guilty party.

Cue violins. A lot of "The Saphead" works toward this kind of sentimental dithering, even the Keaton parts, which get a bit strange. Bertie confesses his love to Agnes accidentally, when he tells his sister Rose about it. (Since Nicholas Van Alstyne adopted Agnes, doesn't that make her Bertie's sister, too?) Agnes is standing right there, though, and gives Bertie a bit of a shock before he recovers and takes her hand. This is strictly Buster for the old ladies.

The best way of watching "The Saphead" is as a couple of clever Keaton shorts with workmanlike connecting material. The first short would be Bertie's attempt to live a wastrel life, not because his heart is in it, but because he believes the modern woman "prefers sports to saints". To this end, in a great bit of physical comedy, Bertie tries to get arrested when his speakeasy is raided even though he successfully bribed a detective without knowing it. Every time he tries to enter the paddy wagon, someone pushes him back out.

The second short would be Bertie making his way on Wall Street in the last 20 minutes, overdressed in top hat, frock coat, and spats, being razzed by the other brokers. This culminates in a scene of wild physical comedy where Keaton runs around the trading floor, jumping on people and unknowingly buying up shares in his father's precious mine.

The Kino DVD I saw this on also has two shorts Keaton made at the same time, "The High Sign" and "One Week", which display Keaton as both director and star, and in much sharper form. "The Saphead" lacks the inventiveness of those shorts, but it works off-and-on as period entertainment thanks to Keaton and a good supporting cast. Booker is a typically shy Keaton-film beauty who delivers her scenes with grace. Crane has a fine comic moment sending his disgraced son off with a check for one million dollars "and not a penny more!"

It's not great cinema, but it's the start of great cinema, showing some the conventions of the time Keaton would do his part to break, and other conventions he would observe, en route to glory.

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