Good Night, Nurse! (1918) Poster

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Did I see this movie, or did I dream it?
wmorrow5926 January 2006
I tend to enjoy the comedies made by Buster Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle during Buster's movie-making apprenticeship, but I can also see how they may not be to everyone's taste. Compared to Buster's later solo work these early films are primitive in technique and content, haphazardly structured, and at times vulgar, but even so, at their best they have a wild unpredictability and a kind of loopy charm that grows on you after you've seen a few of them. You never know where the story is going, and you sense that the filmmakers didn't know either, that they were making up everything as they went along, and this quality can be refreshing and exhilarating. Usually, anyhow.

I first saw Good Night, Nurse! as part of a Keaton retrospective at NYC's Film Forum in the early 1990s, but the print shown on that occasion was in poor condition and obviously incomplete, so much so that the story was incoherent. At one point I even wondered if the surviving pieces of the film had been spliced back together in the wrong sequence. Now that the movie has been restored from better components for its DVD release, I realize it was a bizarre piece of work to begin with, a dark comedy with a very loose plot that unfolds like a disjointed dream.

The film begins with an extended storm sequence. We find a drunken Roscoe teetering about in front of a corner drug store, trying to light a cigarette in the wind. (Watch closely as a woman with an umbrella is blown Roscoe's way by the storm -- that's Buster in drag!) When Roscoe finally makes his way home, bringing along an Italian organ-grinder, a gypsy dancer, and a trained monkey, his long-suffering wife decides that an intervention is in order, and checks Roscoe into the No Hope Sanitarium. There we meet crazed inmate Alice Lake, Al St. John in a dual role as both a doctor and a patient swathed in bandages, and most strikingly of all, young Buster Keaton as Dr. Hampton, who suavely enters the operating room in a bloody smock, sharpening a pair of steak knives. Soon Roscoe has swallowed a thermometer, provoked a frenzied pillow fight among the patients, and donned a nurse's uniform to flirt with Dr. Hampton. If you've never seen Buster smile on screen, check out the flirtation sequence here, where he matches Roscoe grin-for-grin. Eventually, Roscoe escapes from the sanitarium and everyone winds up outside, participating for a cross-country marathon race. (Again, it feels like a dream: "Then suddenly we were all outside, running a marathon," etc.) The race sequence is topped with a final surprise twist that isn't actually much of a surprise, but it wraps up the whole imbroglio on an appropriately weird, anti-climactic note. What were you expecting after all that, a real ending?

In his autobiography Buster devotes a lot of space to the elaborate practical jokes he and his good pal Roscoe Arbuckle used to cook up, when they were on top of the world and full of youthful high spirits. Good Night, Nurse! captures the flavor of those heady days as well as any movie they made together. It may not be their best comedy, but it has a wacky, prankster-like quality that's quite appealing for those willing to go along for the ride.
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Pretty Good Variety of Material
Snow Leopard27 August 2001
There is a pretty good variety of material in this short feature, with a lot of Arbuckle-style humor and also a more fanciful sequence of the kind that Keaton later refined and used in a lot of his own comedies. Here, the material is mostly unrefined, but it has some very good moments.

The opening sequence on the street corner starts to drag a little after a while, but things pick up when Arbuckle's wife sends him to a private sanitarium, where he meets up with Keaton and Alice Lake, resulting in some weird adventures. Keaton has some very funny moments in taking advantage of Arbuckle's confusion, and the dream sequence is quite imaginative.

Most Arbuckle/Keaton fans should find more than enough here to make "Good Night, Nurse!" enjoyable. Though much of it is a little unpolished, it has plenty of humor and energy.
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Classic slapstick, Keaton laughs!
audiemurph10 October 2011
This is a typical Fatty Arbuckle vehicle, full of fast-paced slapstick. Much of the material is, typically for early silent comedy, rather unchoreographed mayhem: for example, 5 hospital staff members trying to move Arbuckle from a bed to a gurney, all 12 arms and legs jumping, flailing and falling. The faster everything moves, the better! However, there are several quite interesting moments in the film.

Firstly, at one point, Arbuckle, dressed as a nurse, flirts with Dr. Buster Keaton in a lengthy (over a minute) sequence; standing on opposite sides of a hallway, they make goo-goo eyes at each other, shyly fingering their own lips with their index fingers, and tracing sweet nothings in extreme embarrassment upon the walls near which they stand, respectively. It is interesting to see Keaton play a man smitten; his famous stone-face character of later solo films famously saw women only as necessary nuisances. More shockingly, at the end of the flirting scene, as Keaton and Arbuckle playfully push each other around, Keaton actually laughs - something we will never see him do on his own.

The funniest part of the movie is when the nearby town holds its annual "Fat Man Race". Within a minute, all the runners have fallen to the side of the road, exhausted - very funny. As can be expected, Arbuckle will accidentally fall into the race. At one point, a man paints the number "5" on a telephone pole. As expected, Arbuckle leans against the pole, and when he moves away, we see the number 5 on his back; now he really seems to be a part of the race. Bizarrely, the "5" does not appear on his back in reverse, as it should; the imprint from the pole has miraculously reversed itself!

Lastly, it may be noted that silent comedy had a penchant for sight gags that revolved around physical deformity and grotesqueness. At one point in this film, Arbuckle hands the end of a long hose to a local hick. The hick grins, showing off a vile looking orifice, filled with gum disease, but few teeth. Repulsive and pointless! Long live silent film comedy.
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Arbuckle/Keaton's Good Night, Nurse! is only fitfully amusing though there's one funny sequence involving Roscoe in drag
tavm21 July 2009
Despite some moments in heavy rain, an encounter with a drunk as well as an organ grinder with a gypsy and a monkey, and a stay in a sanitarium, this Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle silent comedy short with support from Buster Keaton and Al St. John is only fitfully amusing though there is a quite funny sequence of Arbuckle in drag flirting with Buster that's the ultimate in "meet cute" scenes especially since it's one of the few times we see The Great Stone Face smile and laugh in the movies! Also, many scenes seem to have been jump cut edited possibly because of overuse of the film stock. Still, if you're an Arbuckle or Keaton completist, Good Night, Nurse! is certainly worth a look.
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not especially funny and heartless view of a mental asylum
MartinHafer16 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This isn't one of Arbuckle's or Keaton's better films, that's for sure. Fatty's wife is tired of all his heavy drinking, so she takes him to a sanitarium where a psychiatrist (Keaton) claims to have a guaranteed cure! Well, once there, Arbuckle accidentally eats a thermometer and is taken to surgery. Then, he escapes and is chased about the place where he meets a cute girl who also wants to escape. Finally, despite staff chasing them about, they escape at which point it becomes apparent that the girl is crazy and Arbuckle is soon recaptured. However, he awakens and everything AFTER the surgery has all been a dream--there was no sexy crazy girl and Dr. Keaton isn't as big an incompetent as he seemed in the dream.

A lack of humor is the biggest problem with the film. Sure, making fun of mentally ill people is pretty low, but in its day it was guaranteed laughs. I'd laugh, too, if there was just something funny to respond to! A lot of energy and that's all.

FYI--during one of the chase sequences, Fatty wonders into a race for men over 200 pounds (wow, what are the odds of that?). And, shortly after this, he backs into a post on which the number 5 was just freshly painted. As a result, the five is now on the back of Fatty's shirt and he looks like a regular participant. HOWEVER, the number SHOULD have appeared backwards on Fatty's shirt but came out front-ways--a mistake, as they should have realized the mirror image would have been a backwards 5.
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Arbuckle Really Likes to Dress Himself Up as a Woman.
SendiTolver29 August 2018
Roscoe Arbuckle stars as a man with alcohol addiction. His wife commits him to No Hope Sanitarium where they are greeted by the doctor wearing blood covered gown (Buster Keaton) and crazy female patient (Alice Lake). The film is quite loose on plot (like Arbuckle's movies usually), but this one is one of the most incoherent ones. That doesn't mean it is not funny or enjoyable. 'Good Night, Nurse!' is not so much of slapstick stuff, but it works rather as dark comedy. Still, one over the top sequence follows the other, until all the adventures get little bit unsatisfactory conclusion.

One interesting scene is where Arbuckle dresses up as female nurse and then starts to flirt with Buster Keaton's doctor. Scenes, where Buster smiles so long, are really rare. There are brief glimpses of his smile in some other movies, but in this movie, we don't see one bit of Keaton's usual stone face - he is thoughtful or smiling throughout the film.
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Another fairly forgettable silent short
Horst_In_Translation10 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Good Night, Nurse!" is another work written by, directed by and starring Fatty Arbuckle next to some of his regular cast members like Keaton and St. John and others too. These are just the most known names. It came out in 1918, so it is close to its 100th anniversary and at this age, it is of course a black-and-white silent film. The original ran fr 26 minutes, the DVD version is shorter at roughly 20. This is the comedy (of course!) story of a man who has a drinking problem and gets sent to a rehabilitation clinic where he meets all kinds of other relatively bizarre characters, played by some of the actors I mentioned. This is where the comedy stems from this time. It's better than some other projects with a similar cast and story, just different setting at a hotel for example, but all in all it is still not good enough that I would recommend the watch all in all, not even at this runtime. More intertitles would have helped, a frequent problem back in the day. If you really love old silent stuff, you can give it a go here, but for general audiences my suggestion is to skip it because basically every cast member has films in their body of work that are better and more worth seeing.
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Subpar Arbuckle/Keaton comedy short
weezeralfalfa28 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In agreement with several other reviewers, this is not one of the better Roscoe Arbuckle/Buster Keaton silent comedy shorts. In fact , of the 9 such films I've recently seen, I rank it dead last in comedic content. That's not so say that it's of no interest. Unlike most of the films in this series, it has appropriate musical background(as opposed to none)....The first section features a tipsy Roscoe, out in a driving rainstorm, with high winds. He's in front of a drug store,where he encounters a number of people, including Buster Keaton, in drag, having trouble with his umbrella, which carries him with the wind. An inebriated Al St. John happens by. All this time, Roscoe is trying, unsuccessfully, to light his cigarette. Then, an organ grinder, with his capuchin, shows up, followed by a gypsy girl, with tambourine. Roscoe invites the latter 2 into his house, where they make music, while he dances. The monkey goes to see Roscoe's wife, who is relaxing in bed. She ushers the guests out of the house, then reads an article about a Dr. Hampton, of the No Hope Sanitarium, who claims he knows a surgery that will cure alcoholism. The Mrs. takes Roscoe there, where he meets a few patients, including a crazy woman, who jumps on him and kisses him, to his wife's displeasure. Keaton is the surgeon, and Al St. John his assistant. It takes 5 men wrestling with Roscoe to subdue him, and get him on the operating table. They anesthetize him with ether. While under, he has a dream that consumes the remainder of the film. A young woman sneaks into his room and asks him to get her out of here, since she's not really crazy. He takes her hand and goes into a ward, where he starts a ruckus. Soon pillows and feathers are flying everywhere, so it looks like a snowstorm. Roscoe sneaks her into a large pillowcase and carries her out the door! They run a ways, then she tells him she wants to go back in! He dives into the nearby pond, and doesn't resurface for a while. The woman panics, and runs for help. When it arrives, Roscoe has already departed back to the sanitarium. There, he finds a large nurse's uniform and puts it on. He flirts with Keaton(Dr. Hampton), until the real nurse arrives, looking for her uniform. Roscoe is caught, and stripped of her uniform. Roscoe runs outside and, serendipitously, joins a fat man's marathon(200 + lbs.) in progress. Meanwhile, the staff is chasing him. He gains on the leader, then finally surpasses him to win. But, the staff want to take him back. He awakens and realizes it's all been a dream......See it at YouTube or in several DVD packages.
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