What! No Beer? [VHS]
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- Amazon Sales Rank: #7728 in VHS
- Released on: 1993-01-27
- Rating: NR (Not Rated)
- Formats: Black & White, NTSC
- Number of tapes: 1
- Running time: 66 minutes
Buster's Swan Song
What! No Beer? plots Keaton and Durante trying out a beer selling biz starting the day after beer is voted legalized following prohibition. Figuring that the masses will be starved for legalized beer after waiting 13 years, these guys would be the first to sell it again and become millionaires overnight. They get involved with 2 bootleggers who are paranoid about losing their shirts because of the new legislation and a mess involving gangsters and bullets continues throughout the picture. Buster plays his typical babe-in-the-woods character, Elmer.
The old brewery they use looks like a grounded UFO in an Area 51 room. I kept expecting Ming the Merciless to creep out the hatch. Instead the boys are overwhelmed by near-beer suds that flood the room in a pretty good choatic scene that's one of the highlights of the picture.
What! No Beer? was filmed during the worst period of Buster's life, mainly because of his battle with alcoholism. The problem is obvious in a few scenes. One in particular is a scene of Keaton and Durante handcuffed together. Buster looks dazed, puffy and sick. The scene continues with Durante talking to Bus in a normal-sounding voice (the only time in the picture he isn't screaming) as he carries on a sympathetic conversation with Bus, who definitely sounds like he'd been drinking beforehand. A minute later, the scene continues where Buster further slurs his lines.
This film was made at the end of 1932 and was a big hit for MGM. The print on this VHS edition is excellent. I was surprised to see that such good quality sound existed in 1932. Film critics, historians and Buster are hard on this picture because they compare it to his silent classics instead of accepting it for what it was, a sound comedy with lots of talk and chaos. It's quickly paced and there's never a dull moment.
The plot of this film involves alcohol, which ironically is what ruined Buster's career as a major feature-length movie star. He was let go from MGM a few days after this film completed its shooting.
WHAT! The End of Buster?
What! No Beer? is awful. This is Buster's last starring feature for MGM. Also his last starring feature made in the USA. He is slow and sluggish. As with most of his MGM sound pictures there are only a few good moments. And you have to hunt for them. At least "Speak Easily" has a story that made sense. In addition to not being funny, What! No Beer? is a mess. Ed Sedgwick directing couldn't even help.
Get What! No Beer? only if you want to see everything Buster was in...
An Ironic Coda to Keaton's MGM Career
"What! No Beer?" (1933) is a terribly uneven Prohibition-era comedy with some classic Buster Keaton moments undercut by the irritating verbage of Jimmy Durante. Despite his alcoholic condition (evident in several scenes), Buster makes the most of his non-Durante sequences - recreating his "Seven Chances" climax with beer barrels replacing boulders. Though a box-office hit, MGM fired Keaton for his uncontrollable drinking and the comic legend never starred in another Hollywood feature. Regardless of the sad ironies associated with Keaton's life and career, "What! No Beer?" is worth a look - just fast-forward past the Durante segments.