Last weekend I had money to spend, a DVD store to spend it in and some films I was thinking of spending it on. Those thoughts went out the proverbial window when I saw Kino's Lost Keaton collection in the New Arrivals section. This is a collection of the sixteen short subjects Buster Keaton made for Educational Studios from 1934 through 1937 after leaving M-G-M and falling from the ranks of A-class stars. They were the major piece of Keaton's career missing from official DVD status until now, except for the two shorts Kino included in its 2003 Keaton Plus collection. I liked those two enough to want to see the rest.
The Educationals had a bad reputation in Keaton biographies, signifying the depths to which the star had sunk due to alcoholism and mishandling by M-G-M. David McLeod's book The Sound of Buster Keaton signalled a still-critical reappraisal of films that had largely been condemned sight unseen, whose sole saving grace seemed to have been that the shorts Keaton made for Columbia later in the 1930s and into the early 1940s were even worse. A collection of Columbia Keatons already exists with commentary tracks for each short, but Kino would only spring for liner notes by McLeod to accompany the Educationals. With minimal guidance, we're left to judge them for ourselves.