The Boat

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Average Rating: 3.9/5

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Movie Info

In what is perhaps Buster Keaton's most fatalistic short subject, the comedian portrays a husband who has been diligently building a boat in his basement. It's finally done, and he, his wife (Sybil Seely) and their two boys prepare to tow it to the harbor for its first run. The car slowly pulls the craft, which is too big to fit, through the basement doorway, and the house just as slowly collapses. But this is just the beginning -- at the pier, the car sinks, the christening bottle dents the hull, and then the boat itself sinks, with Buster aboard. But as the title says: "You can't keep a good boat down." Finally the little boat is at sea (even if its life preserver sinks and anchor floats), and Buster and his family try valiantly to makes themselves at home as the waves toss them to and fro. Of course this can't go on forever; in the darkest part of the night, a storm fiercely blows and the boat begins to sink. Buster desperately radios for help, but when the telegraph operator (played by Keaton's co-director, Eddie Cline) asks for the boat's name, and Buster replies "Damfino" (which is, in fact, its name), the operator angrily replies, "Neither do I!" As Buster and his family cram into their makeshift lifeboat, the situation looks very bad, but somehow they wind up on land. "Where are we?" the wife wants to know. There's no need for a title card to record Buster's reply: "Damned if I know!" This is one of Keaton's best two-reelers, which was almost lost to the ravages of time and deterioration -- when Keaton's work was first being restored, only one print of The Boat was found, and several scenes were nearly past the point of salvaging. But the picture squeaked through intact, and its indelible images have become a part of silent film's heritage.

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Critic Reviews for The Boat

All Critics (2)

The Boat is superbly, ceaselessly comic, in its hero's imperturbably practical and unsurprised reaction to catastrophe.

Jul 14, 2018 | Full Review…

Hilarious two-reeler.

Mar 29, 2012 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Boat


"The Boat" is another Buster Keaton short that is 23 minutes in length but is still filled with Buster's athleticism, sight gags and amazing camera techniques that he applies in a multitude of ways adding to the sense of realism in the film. Literally felt sick when viewing the boat spinning scene in which the camera moves and so does Buster to keep from being thrown about, which still happens in the end. This isn't to say that it's a bad thing, I was more impressed that a film over 90 years old had such technique in not only it's camera work but editing and directing. This is almost like a sequel to the earlier Buster short "One Week" as Buster brings back Sybil Seely to play the staring role of his wife and now they have two sons in tow as well. The film picks up as Buster has just finished building the boat in his garage but of course it's too big to get out and even with removing several stones, getting it out ends in disaster. The rest of the film, once the boat is finally set afloat, is about trying to stay up and eventually leads to the sinking and it's in the boat and on it's journey that we are given a chance to see all types of techniques used in order to portray the direction and angling of the boat. A really well done and special Keaton short that picks up perfectly after the other masterpiece "One Week".

Chris Browning
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer

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