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Silent Era Home Page  >  Home Video  >  Steamboat Bill, Jr.
 
Silent Era Films on Home Video
Reviews of silent film releases on home video.
Copyright © 1999-2017 by Carl Bennett
and the Silent Era Company.
All Rights Reserved.

Steamboat Bill, Jr.
(1928)

 

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) was the last of Buster Keaton’s independently-produced films with Joseph Schenck before being sold (figuratively, and then some) to MGM, who gradually exercised a growing stranglehold of control over Keaton’s stories, budgets and crew. While MGM’s The Cameraman (1928) is a funny film and was very successful upon its original release, Steamboat Bill, Jr. has Buster Keaton’s personal touches throughout and retains the feeling of an individual artist’s production and not a corporate product.

Buster Keaton as William Canfield Jr. is a buffoon to his father but, as it turns out, resourceful when needed. Ernest Torrance’s performance is always one of the highlights of the films he acted in. The instantly recognizable character actor plays Keaton’s cantankerous steamboat-captain father. Marion Byron’s bright and charming semi-flapper performance adds to the film’s charm. Tom McGuire plays the rich antagonist J.J. King.

Buster has been raised by his sophisticated mother in Boston. His father is a rough blue-collar type, and Buster arrives on the scene for a visit, his first with his father since he was a child. Their incompatible backgrounds make for quite a bit of the early comedy in the film. Buster’s father’s chief competitor turns out to be the father of one of Buster’s college girlfriends. The obligatory Romeo and Juliet conflicts are the underpinnings of the story, which climaxes with a huge windstorm that threatens the whole town.

The film includes one of the most hair-raising and infamous stunts of the silent era. A stunt that could easily have killed Buster had anything gone awry. Fortunately, nothing did and we have available for viewing one of the great moments in film history. During a high-wind storm, the side of a house falls down and nearly flattens Buster. A moment that must be seen to be believed. — Carl Bennett

coverKino Classics
2017 Blu-ray Disc edition

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), black & white, 69 minutes, not rated,
with College (1927), black & white, 66 minutes, not rated, and Run, Girl, Run (1928), black & white, 18 minutes, not rated.

Kino Lorber, K21210, UPC 7-38329-21210-0.
Two single-sided, single-leyered, Region A Blu-ray Discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in pillarboxed 16:9 (? x ? pixels) progressive? scan AVCHD MPEG-4 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, LPCM 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 8 chapter stops; standard dual-disc BD keepcase, $29.95.
Release date: 14 February 2017
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 9 / additional content: 8 / overall: 9.
This remastered Blu-ray Disc edition utlizes an excellent 35mm print, which has been transferred in 2K high-definition with continuous greytones made-up of very-fine black pointilistic dots. The dots, which are quite a bit smaller than those that comprise the picture image of Kino’s previous BD editions, are nearly undetectable in a still frame and produce a very filmlike picture when in motion. Digital clean-up and stabilization of the picture appears to have been performed on the video master, which renders a very clean and stable picture.

The film is presented with two optional music scores, both in uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo: a new music score composed and conducted by Timothy Brock, and a music score performed on theatre pipe organ by Lee Erwin.

The supplementary material includes audio commentary by film historians Michael Schlesinger and Stan Taffel; an introduction by edition producer Serge Bromberg (in French with English subtitles) (4 minutes); and an Alka Seltzer commercial featuring Buster (1 minute).

This is our recommended home video edition of Steamboat Bill, Jr. We think that this edition makes it worth upgrading from any previous home video release.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
coverKino International
2010 Blu-ray Disc edition

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [USA version], black & white, 71 minutes, not rated,
and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [international version], black & white, 70 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, unknown catalog number, UPC number.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region-Free Blu-ray Disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in pillarboxed 16:9 (? x ? pixels) progressive? scan AVCHD MPEG-4 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound, LPCM 2.0 stereo sound, and LPCM 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 8 chapter stops; standard BD keepcase in cardboard slipcover, $34.95.
Release date: 6 July 2010.
Country of origin: USA
This Blu-ray Disc edition of Steamboat Bill Jr. has been mastered in high-definition. Two differing versions of the film are presented, the USA domestic version and the international export version. Our biggest rap on this high-definition edition is the coarse pattern of pointilistic dots that make up the video transfer image, seen clearly in any freeze frame, that seem like a swarm of black dots when in motion. The dots do not appear to be emulsion grains in the source print, but more that they are how the video transfer or the disc mastering rendered the continuous graytones in the source print. The resolution dots will look like very sharp picture details to some eyes but as distracting disc artifacts to others.

The films are presented with optional music scores by The Biograph Players 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, a theater organ score by Lee Erwin and a piano score by William Perry (Killiam version).

The edition’s supplementary material includes a complete presentation of the version from the Paul Killiam collection (70 minutes); a featurette that compares the two versions of Steamboat Bill, Jr. (13 minutes); two historic performances of the songs “Steamboat Bill” (5 minutes total); a Kino-produced montage of Keaton stunts from his sound shorts set to music, “Why They Call Him Buster” (2 minutes); and a stills gallery (69 images).

This was a preferred Blu-ray Disc edition previously but now we recommend Kino Lorber’s updated BD edition, as noted above.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
coverKino Classics
2012 Blu-ray Disc edition

The Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection (1920-1937), black & white, 1600 minutes total, not rated,
including Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [USA version], black & white, 71 minutes, not rated,
and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [international version], black & white, 70 minutes, not rated.

Kino Lorber, K1087, UPC 7-38329-10872-4.
Fourteen single-sided, single-layered and dual-layered, Region-Free Blu-ray Discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in pillarboxed 16:9 (? x ? pixels) progressive? scan AVCHD MPEG-4 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound, LPCM 2.0 stereo sound, and LPCM 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops; four multidisc BD cases in cardboard slipcase, $299.95.
Release date: 11 December 2012.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 8 / additional content: 7 / overall: 8.
This Blu-ray Disc collection contains the high-definition home video release of two versions of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., which is identical to the single-disc edition noted above.

The films are presented with optional music scores by The Biograph Players 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, a theater organ score by Lee Erwin and a piano score by William Perry (Killiam version).

The edition’s supplementary material includes a complete presentation of the version from the Paul Killiam collection (70 minutes); a featurette that compares the two versions of Steamboat Bill, Jr. (13 minutes); two historic performances of the songs “Steamboat Bill” (5 minutes total); a Kino-produced montage of Keaton stunts from his sound shorts set to music, “Why They Call Him Buster” (2 minutes); and a stills gallery (69 images).

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region-Free Blu-ray Disc edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
coverKino International
2010 DVD edition

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [USA version], black & white, 71 minutes, not rated,
and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) [international version], black & white, 70 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K694, UPC 7-38329-06942-1.
Two single-sided, dual-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $29.95.
Release date: 6 July 2010.
Country of origin: USA
This DVD edition of Steamboat Bill Jr. has been remastered in high-definition. Two differing versions of the film are presented, the USA domestic version and the international export version.

The film versions are presented with optional music scores by The Biograph Players 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, a theater organ score by Lee Erwin and a piano score by William Perry.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase helps support the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase helps support the Silent Era website.
 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD edition is also available directly from KINO LORBER.
coverKino on Video
1999 DVD edition

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), black & white, 69 minutes, not rated,
with Convict 13 (1920), black & white, 20 minutes, not rated, and Day Dreams (1922), black & white, 22 minutes, not rated.

Kino International, K135DVD, UPC 7-38329-01352-3.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, 4.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, snapper DVD case (reissued in standard DVD keepcase, and in slimline DVD keepcase), $29.99 (reduced to $24.95).
Release date: 26 October 1999.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 7 / additional content: 8 / overall: 8.

The video transfer for this Kino edition, from an excellent 35mm print, is virtually identical to that originally released on laserdisc and videotape in 1991, and rereleased on both formats as part of the Art of Buster Keaton boxsets from 1995.

The organ music score performance by Gaylord Carter is identical to all editions and is well reproduced in Dolby Digital mono sound here.

Also included in this edition are two of the most reputedly incomplete Keaton films, Convict 13 (1920), a two-reel film identified for years as having only survived in one reel and Day Dreams (1922).

Previously recommended, we now advise passing up this edition for one of Kino’s new HD remastered discs noted above.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era. AmazonUK
 
This Region 0 NTSC DVD edition is also available directly from KINO LORBER.
coverImage Entertainment
2003 DVD edition

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), black & white, 70 minutes, not rated,
with The General (1926), color-toned black & white, 76 minutes, not rated.

Image Entertainment, ID0559DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-05592-4.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $24.99.
Release date: 21 October 2003.
Country of origin: USA
This edition, produced by David Shepard, may feature the same video transfers as those he provided for the Kino DVD, laserdisc and VHS videotape editions of the 1990s.

The films feature new musical accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
coverEureka Entertainment
2001 DVD edition

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), black & white, 97 minutes, BBFC Classification U,
with The Boat (1921), black & white, ? minutes, BBFC Classification U.

Eureka Entertainment, unknown catalog number, unknown UPC number.
One single-sided, dual-layered, Region 2 PAL DVD disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (? x ? pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, £19.99.
Release date: 18 June 2001.
Country of origin: England
This PAL edition has been mastered from 35mm print materials.

The film is likely accompanied by a modern music score soundtrack.

North American collectors will need a region-free PAL DVD player capable of outputting an NTSC-compatible signal to view this edition.

 
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 2 PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Other silent era BUSTER KEATON films available on home video.

Other FILMS FROM 1928 available on home video.

Other silent film music scores by THE ALLOY ORCHESTRA available on home video.
Buster Keaton filmography in The Progressive Silent Film List
 
 
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