The Railrodder: Buster Keaton in Canada

(Another short article.)

This is the sort of thing that probably gets more attention now, in the age of the internet, then it did when it was released. It’s part film, part travelogue for Canada. And our tour guide is… Buster Keaton??!


Why yes, that really is Buster Keaton riding past the picturesque countryside. In The Railrodder, a 24-minute film, he crosses all 3,982½ miles of Canada on a rail-car that never runs out of fuel!

This was 1965, thirty-five years after his ‘glory days’ of silent comedy. Between the 20’s and 60’s, he’d fallen into obscurity. But this, his final silent film (there’s no talking and all the sound-effects are dubbed) is great. Keaton’s antics, which were always very child-like and ridiculous, look even more ridiculous coming from a 70-year-old.

Hunting wabbits?

Hunting wabbits?

I felt a bit melancholy, seeing Buster Keaton so old. Seeing that he’s as great an actor as ever, knowing that he can never be as good a stuntman. But he’s still playing the same character he used to. Even before he puts on his trademark flat-topped hat, we know it’s him.

Most of Buster Keaton’s movies were based on elaborate stunts and constant motion. This one is quite pensive in comparison. Perhaps because Keaton rides this train alone: there’s no villain to defeat or damsel to save. It’s older and wiser, but let me make this clear: It is still 100% comedy.

Keaton died one year later, in 1966. In many ways, this is his last goodbye. But don’t you dare cry over it; I’m sure he would’ve hated that.


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